Sarah Reasoner

Sarah Reasoner has been an All-America track star, a bodybuilder, and a champion powerlifter. But firefighter is the job that really ended up being her calling.

As Sarah told the Star Tribune recently, “I put on that gear and I knew. This was it. This is what I wanted to do.” She added: “A lot of this job is realizing that we’re supposed to help people, and this world is not about us.”

Reasoner has only been with the department full-time since July. But she’s already one of its best-known firefighters. As shown in the attached photo, she was recently named one of the world’s strongest firefighters in Santa Monica, California in a competition hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Coming in 5th, was the event’s first female competitor.

Reasoner welcomes the physical demands of being a firefighter.

During a recent workout at a gym in northeast Minneapolis, she focused on strengthening her legs and back — doing dead lifts and leg curls. The workouts help her perform better in a job that has already involved going into burning buildings in full gear, she said.

After doing well on the written test, Reasoner spent the summer of 2018 training for the physical exam. In September 2018, on her 30th birthday, she not only passed it but broke the record.

Reasoner graduated from the three-month academy at the end of June and has been on the job since the start of July. For her first three years, she’ll rotate from station to station as needed, filling in for firefighters who call in sick, go on vacation or who are injured. She said she loves the collegiality. She loves the need for teamwork. She loves the physical demands of the job. Her goal is to be a firefighter her entire career.

This job is everything and more of what I wanted it to be,” she said. “It’s challenging every day. Every day, you learn.”

Despite the recent accolades, Reasoner said she simply wants to become the best firefighter she can be. And while she enjoys the strongman contests, she savors doing something meaningful with her strength.

“It’s pretty humbling to know there are guys who have been on this job and women who have been on this job who can run circles around me,” she said.

“It’s humbling and motivating to know that my crew depends on me. And the citizens of St. Paul depend on me.”

Story excerpted from


Josh Hern

Josh is an Accountant in Fire, working with grants and the budget process. He has been with the City for almost exactly one year (January 22.)

About four months ago, Josh had his body composition analyzed by a machine that was on temporary loan to the Fire Department. This machine measures the levels of fat, muscle and water in the body. Josh remembers being shocked at the results! He had been running, feeling ok – in no way imagined he had reached 190 pounds with a lower distribution of muscle than desired. He decided to “kick it into high gear.”

First he evaluated what he was eating – meals and snacks. What WAS he snacking on? Josh made healthier choices, forgoing Pop Tarts for almonds and string cheese. He remarked that as an 11-year-old he was thin as a rail and could eat whatever he wanted, but is sadly no longer the case. We lamented for a moment the loss of Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts – a personal favorite for both of us!

Josh also increased his water intake, eventually reaching his goal of a gallon per day. In terms of workouts, he incorporated a mix of weights and cardio. He used a program called ’80 Day Obsession’ as an overall guide to workouts and attention to diet.

Josh dropped from 190 to 177, creeping up a bit to 180 during the holidays, but is working on getting back to 177. He has learned that it really comes down to what he puts into his body. “It’s about making conscious choices,” says Josh. “A friend or coworker may encourage you that ‘it’s just one cookie’ or it’s just one donut’, which might be true in that moment. But if you have ‘just one’ several days a week, it adds up.”

Josh said that Jody Griffin, our December Employee Story, was exactly right: it has to be long term. As he said, “this is my lifestyle now.”


Beth Ulrich and Dan Bayers

Beth Ulrich and Dan Bayers are long-time employees in Planning and Economic Development. Combined, they have nearly 60 years of service to the City of Saint Paul.
Dan and Beth have been part of a walking group at lunch for years. An average of four times a week, no matter the weather, they walk downtown over their lunch hour.

Dan and his sister had been planning to hike the Grand Canyon for a long time. They thought they could go down, camp one night, then come back the next morning. For five years in a row they applied for a camping permit, but did not get in as there is a limited supply.

Eventually they decided to do it all in a day. No camping meant no overnight equipment required, which made for an easier, faster hike.

Dan mentioned to Beth that he and his sister had their plan in place. Beth wanted to go too – in fact, her sister wanted to go along! So, it became a four-person adventure.

Beth did a lot of reading and research. The hike from the North Rim to the South Rim is 24.5 miles in length, with another two miles added for descent and ascent. Nearly all accounts of “average hikes” indicated that the last six miles were usually brutal.

They prepared by months of training. Dan’s hikes ranged from 7 to 24 miles depending on the day, including training carrying 19-pound packs at Afton Hills. Beth and her sister trained on the Stillwater Stairs – 12 circuits equal a mile. Dan’s sister, who lives in Denver, has hiked the Colorado Trail for two weeks so was more than ready. The rest of the group flew out a week in advance to acclimate to the altitude. Beth and her sister hiked Bryce and Zion Canyons first to get some practice.

The group was also prepared for emergencies: for example, they had a filtration system at the ready in case water lines were not open.

They began at 5:30 am, when it was still dark. For the first hour, they could only see about a foot in front of them. Twelve and a half hours later they arrived at the top of the South Rim. Beth remembers being about three miles into that last six when she realized “This is not so bad!” It turned out they had trained so well that none of them got even the tiniest sore muscle.

Laughing, they agreed the worst part was Beth slowing them all down by having to repeatedly tie her shoelaces.


ERN the Burn Event

On September 17th city employees gathered at Raspberry Island to learn a variety of ways to de-stress and were given a multitude of ideas on how to create more joy and happiness in our life. Presented by Kara Hirdman, our City of St. Paul ERN the BURN wellness coordinator, we were surrounded by the beauty of the Mississippi river and were offered practical steps to improve our health and wellbeing.


Councilmember Chris Tolbert

Chris Tolbert represents Ward 3, which includes Highland Park and Macalester-Groveland. First elected to office in 2011, Chris brought the Right Track youth program to Saint Paul in 2015.
Chris is a big advocate for the Saint Paul Ramsey County Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, which exists to eliminate domestic violence against women and their children, as well as the social and systems responses that condone or allow its oppression.

Chris and County Attorney John Choi started the Northland Cup Hockey Program, a charity hockey game, to raise money for the project 5 years ago.
Both Chris and John love to play hockey, so it seemed the perfect charity venue. The two competing teams are made up of City and County employees. The Mayor plays on the City team. There is a waiting list of employees hoping to be added to the team in the future.

The program raises charity funds from Saint Paul’s private businesses including Xcel Energy, Bremer Bank, and others including small businesses. The first year they raised about $10,000. This year they raised nearly $30,000. As a bonus, the City won! Chris says “This is a great way to have fun, be active AND do something good for others.”
Chris has always been an active guy. In addition to hockey he loves swimming, yoga and lifting. Chris says, “I love working out. That’s my release; my mental health. I work out every day, and would twice a day if I had time.”

His message to employees who have gotten away from being active over the years is “Find that activity you loved as a kid, when you were just a worry-free kid. Rediscovering something you loved to do is like getting to be a kid again.”

Learn more about the Saint Paul Ramsey County Domestic Abuse Intervention Project here:


Lucas Swoboda

Lucas Swoboda is a firefighter for the City of Saint Paul. He oversees the fitness team for the fire department. He has worked for the city for 7 years.
Before becoming a firefighter, Luke was working in a law firm, studying to be a lawyer. His side job was as a gym trainer. Luke was encouraged to take both the Saint Paul and Minneapolis fire tests by a friend who was also a trainer. He eventually passed the test and got hired (though his friend didn’t!) Once Luke was working as a firefighter, he felt that “Everything sort of made sense.”

After being on the job for a few years, a peer fitness program was established. Luke was chosen with other fighter fighters who went through the ACE (American Council on Exercise) certification program. Luke became the lead trainer. A yearly, non-punitive physical assessment determines VO2 max, strength and endurance. The goals of the program are to ensure the firefighters are in shape, healthy, and work as a team.

He Is also the organizer of the stair climbing team, where teams climb high rises in competition. “Climbing season” is February – March. Towers include IDS (50 flights), Capella (52 flights), and US Bank (30 flights). The last two are climbed in full firefighting gear.

The best thing about Luke’s job is that it is real. He says, “I’m going into peoples’ lives, with their family and their loved ones, helping with what actually matters in life. I get to affect that in a very real way to make their lives better.” Luke adds “The physical part of the job is one of my favorite things about it. Getting to use my body in a healthy way has always been important, and now working out is part of my job.”



Jerome Benner II

Jerome Benner II is a city employee who works in DSI (Department of Safety and Inspections). Jerome has worked for the City for 5 years. He started as a temporary employee back in 2014 and has been a permanent employee for 4 years now. He was promoted in 2017 to be the staffer of the Board of Zoning Appeals.

All through high school and college, Jerome has played sports – football, basketball, and pretty much everything except hockey since he never learned to skate! He has always been healthy. A few years ago, he stopped working out and kind of tapered off being as active. He first gained 5 pounds and thought “eh, no big deal”. Then he was up 10 pounds, then 20. His “aha” moment was when the clothes he bought for his new job beginning of 2017 didn’t fit him by the end of 2018. This motivated Jerome to start living a healthy lifestyle and lose the extra weight he had gained.

Jerome started the Whole-30 diet, which got him off to a great start. The diet taught him how to read labels and be smart about what he consumes. Although Whole-30 helped him, he started gaining back the weight again once he stopped.

At that point he worked with a health coach through Healthy Saint Paul who helped him make small changes to his diet and activities.

Jerome has lost exactly 22 pounds within 6 months this past year. His weight loss has made feel good about himself. He feels lighter and has more energy to do things. He is still working towards his goals right now, staying on track to maintain his good health.

One of the tools Jerome is currently using is intermittent fasting. He does not begin eating until noon, aiming to wrap up eating by 8 pm. This has taught him how to regulate his cravings. He also goes on nightly walks and works out consistently to maintain a healthy weight.

Another big tool that has been helpful for Jerome is his Apple watch. His watch is like a positive reinforcement to him which helps him stay on track in achieving his goals of losing weight. The Apple watch keeps track of all his workouts and his walks, it also helps remind him when he hasn’t been active for a while.

Jerome stated, “It’s been good working for the City. Working downtown I’m able to go to the gym at lunch.”

Jerome’s message to folks on the same journey is “It’s never too late to start. Focus on the long-term goal. You will slip up, but be kind to yourself because it can be tough. Also having support or asking for support from your family/ friends can be very helpful.”


The Capital City Wind Ensemble

We are a concert band made up of city, county, and other downtown employees and practice on Thursdays 12-1 in the court house basement. Currently, we have more retired members than actively working members so would like to recruit more people. We accept anyone who can play an instrument and there are no auditions to join. In fact, most of us haven’t played for 10+ years before joining. All you need to do is show up to Thursday lunch hour rehearsals and you can join us.

The band is conducted by Roger Grupp (public works) and Mary Livingston (Parks and Rec), both retirees of Saint Paul. We perform 7-10 times a year at various places around the city such as Saint Paul City Hall and Ramsey County Courthouse, the St. Paul Winter Carnival, Rice Park, Mears Park, Kellogg Blvd, Landmark center, court house lobby, and nursing homes. Most of these concerts are during the lunch hour 12-1pm so we don’t have to take any time off work.

The Capital City Wind Ensemble was founded by the legendary Max Metzger in 2002. The ensemble consists of City and Ramsey County employees and retirees, plus other Downtown St. Paul and University of Minnesota workers, and a few friends, too.

The CCWE is always looking for new members, find out more at



May 21st
Nutrition Presentation– What is Nutrition?

We will cover many aspects of nutrition such as nutrients, vitamins, fats, proteins and carbs and what the best options
are for a healthy lifestyle.

Time: 11am – 12pm or 12-1pm

Location: SPFD Headquarters

First Floor Meeting Room

50 Points will be given to those who attend.

Feel free to bring your lunch while you listen and learn.

A delicious Fruit Smoothie (nondairy and yogurt) will be made during the presentation to try a healthy food option.


Rachel Larson

Rachel has been a Benefits Specialist at the City since July of 2017. New employees know her from introducing them to their City of Saint Paul benefits.

Rachel has quit smoking at earlier times in her life, but always found herself starting again. This past winter, Rachel’s chronic asthma, combined with the cold winter weather and smoking, made her very sick. She was hospitalized twice for pneumonia in the past 6 months. In her words, “My body was rejecting cigarette smoke. It was breaking down, reacting severely even when I cut back to smoking many fewer cigarettes.”

It got to the point where Rachel was unable to even walk and talk at the same time without running out of breath. She was getting out of breath just going down the hall.
While she had used the patch in past attempts, Rachel quit cold turkey this winter. Her body’s reaction scared her so much that the withdrawals were bearable compared to the fear of another hospitalization.

She also started taking two 15-minute walks per day. It was easier than an entire half hour at once. Those healthy habits led to more – Rachel began a food diary where she journals everything she eats, as well as her weight on a weekly basis. She discovered through her journaling just how much sugar she was eating. “I was eating candy like a little kid. I needed to grow up.”

Rachel also has lupus, which along with asthma is a disease related to inflammation. Reducing sugar has a very beneficial effect by lowering the level of inflammation in the body.
Rachel is feeling so much more energetic. She is excited to see the continuing improvement as she keeps up her new healthy habits.

Congratulations, Rachel!