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!


Healthy Cooking Classes

Jim Hensrud, Physical Fitness Coordinator Saint Paul PD

This month Healthy Saint Paul sponsored two Healthy Cooking Classes that SPPD Physical Fitness Coordinator Jim Hensrud presented to employees of the police department. The goal of these classes was to present meal ideas to employees that are delicious, budget friendly and easy to prepare. Class participants got to enjoy a freshly prepared meal while Jim provided tips on cooking the meal. The first class Jim prepared a simple lunch recipe of chicken wraps with cucumber, tomato, hummus and feta cheese. The 2nd class was a chicken chickpea and veggie curry over rice. (recipe below) Both of the classes received very positive feedback:

“Thank you Chef Jim and Healthy Saint Paul for introducing quick, easy and healthy meals. It was great to be introduced to new flavors.”

“The warm, delicious, spicy meal hit the spot! Thank you Jim for putting it together!”

“I really appreciate the chance to taste the recipes before making them at home! Thank you for doing this.”

“Thank you Jim for the healthy cooking tips! The food was delicious!

This meal is often prepared without chicken as I often do myself. Adding chicken makes it a little more filling and appealing to carnivores.
You can use chicken from a previous meal or cook it slow in a crockpot and shred it for this meal.
You can use any curry mix you choose for this meal. I highly recommend going to a local Penzey’s spice shop to buy spices. You get to smell the spices so you know what you are buying. I also recommend the sweet curry or vindaloo curry from Penzey’s for this recipe.

Do you have questions for our featured employee? Send them to us at and we will publish a Q&A in a future issue.


Kara Hirdman

Kara was recently hired as the Health and Wellness Coordinator for the St. Paul Fire Department. Kara’s experience in athletics, fitness, health and education have a long history. She played softball at Como High School, took boxing lessons as a teen and worked in the University of St. Thomas Athletic Department while working toward her BA degree in Psychology and Communications. She was part of a Rugby team in Venezuela, taught English and learned Spanish while living there and later taught Nutrition and Family Education classes in high schools throughout the Twin Cities following receiving her MA degree in Education. She has been a fitness instructor and personal trainer, was a strength and conditioning coach for the Hamline University Gymnastics team and most recently was Director of Healthy Living at the Downtown St. Paul YMCA.

In her new role as the Health and Wellness director she will support current groups addressing peer fitness, peer support and the cancer task force. She plans to help coach and support firefighters, create educational opportunities and build a positive environment for personal, professional and organizational growth.
Kara believes in lifelong learning and attempts to keep up with the newest research in all areas of health and fitness. She lives with her two children in the St. Paul area.


Mayor Carter

Team Saint Paul, I continue to be inspired by all of you every day and I’m thrilled for what lies ahead of us in 2019. Together, we achieved great things in the past year like raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, establishing our Office of Financial Empowerment, tripling our free recreation center programming, and creating an unprecedented $10 million housing trust fund.
The investments we’ve made in our city ensure we are building a Saint Paul that truly works for all of us. We are also creating a healthy, vibrant, and sustainable community that can meet our needs today, and positions our city to be a place our children and grandchildren want to live.

Realizing this vision for a healthy, vibrant, and sustainable community now and in the future, starts with ensuring we can all lead full, healthy lives.

I was fortunate to grow up in a household where our parents were passionate about health and fitness, and instilled in my sisters and me a holistic perspective on wellness. They encouraged all of us to participate in athletic activities from a very early age. They also instilled in us the idea that health and wellness are not just about physical exercise, or eating your vegetables and getting a good night’s sleep. Healthy living encompasses physical, mental and spiritual wellness. When our body, mind, and soul feels nourished, we can fully realize our potential.
Growing up, I had the opportunity to play tennis, hockey, and run track & field. Running is something I continue to enjoy today. Whether it’s running several miles around my neighborhood, joining one of many local 5K races with my wife, Dr. Sakeena Futrell-Carter, or running with our “We Run Saint Paul” employee group, I find this activity to be one of my favorite ways to stay healthy, and connected with my family, colleagues and our community.

We each have unique health needs and interests, and in this new year, I encourage everyone to find what works for you. What’s most important is that we all engage in nurturing a healthy ecosystem for ourselves, our families, our friends and our entire community. We all play a role in sustaining wellness in our lives, and together, we can truly continue to build Saint Paul into a community that works for all of us. I’m absolutely thrilled to be your teammate in the work ahead and wish you a happy and healthy start to your year.


Coni Cassity

Coni Cassity has worked for the City for 22 years. She started in Libraries, then went to Parks & Rec. For the past 10 years, she has worked at Water. Below is Coni’s successful story, in her own words, at weight loss.

“I’ve been obese since I was a child. I can’t even count the number of diets I’ve tried over the past 40+ years. I’ve always been able to lose weight fast but keeping the weight off was something I always failed at, gaining it back even faster. This down and up cycle continued until I was well over 300 lbs. My Nurse Practitioner agreed that it was better to remain a constant weight than continue the yo-yo dieting so I stopped trying to lose weight and just accepted myself as I was. I managed to remain a stable weight for nearly 10 years but as my 50th birthday approached, I starting having more difficulty moving. Climbing a single flight of stairs would leave me breathless and light headed.

In March of 2017 I started having a lot of trouble walking due to arthritis in my knees. I was in such pain that I thought surgery was my only option but because of my size, surgery was dangerous. In June 2017 I received a disability placard and began physical therapy to prepare for what we all thought was inevitable surgery. At that time I was 288 lbs., pre-diabetic, had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and trouble breathing. I signed up for Omada* and started the program in July 2017 in desperation to get healthy enough to have the knee surgery. The weight started to come off slowly, but part of me was still expecting to fail because I had so many times before. While the coaching seemed “corny” and all the lessons were things I’ve heard over the years, it was different this time. I wasn’t trying to lose weight anymore, I was just trying to stay alive. It was hard to make changes at first, but by starting slowly and building healthy habits and routines one week at a time, it’s no longer a struggle.

In June of 2018 I saw my Nurse Practitioner for the first time in a year. She was speechless. At that time I was 202 lbs. (I’d lost 86 lbs. in 1 year). While still obese, my bloodwork was all within healthy ranges.

I have added years to my life. All it took was making the decision to not give up on myself this time. I managed to take control of my self-destructive eating habits. With the encouragement of my Omada coach, the support of my family, co-workers and a promise to myself to not let myself down, I have continued to lose weight and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. I no longer need knee surgery since eating healthy, drinking more water and increasing my activity has reduced my pain to nearly non-existent. I walk at least 10,000 steps a day and have participated in six 5k runs. I have promised myself to bike into work once a week (3 ½ miles each way) during good weather. As of today, I have lost 115 lbs. I am continuing to eat healthy and remain active and will continue to lose the excess weight, but since losing weight is not my goal, it will not be a struggle. The more weight I continue to lose, the slower I will lose it until I reach a balance point. I’m excited to find out when that will happen.

*The Omada program is free to employees insured under the City’s Medica health plan. Visit for more information and to take the quick, three question survey to see if you qualify. Employees new to Omada qualify to earn 75 points for completing the first nine lessons.


Heather Vasquez

Heather has worked for the City for 13 years, starting at age 19. She is currently an Office Assistant III for Public Works in the Street Maintenance Division. In her job, she does a little bit of everything so much so that she has been called the “Swiss army knife of Public Works”!

Heather admits that in her teen years she wasn’t into exercising or watching her diet. She was in for a shock when at age 20 she stepped on a scale at a doctor appointment. She felt she had really let herself go and decided then that she would do something about it.

She began by making little changes to her diet. Up until then, she had been eating whatever she wanted which included a lot of fast food. So, for example, instead of taco shells, she substituted lettuce wraps. She gave up greasy cheeseburgers. She began doing her own research into healthy eating. Changing her diet was hard for her but it paid off. Heather saw the weight come off and people starting asking her about it. This motivated her to keep going.

Heather decided to add exercise to her life, beginning with short walks. She then added working out to exercise videos at home. By doing the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred she lost 30 lbs. in 6 weeks. The lifestyle changes that Heather made ultimately resulted in a 60 lb. total weight loss that she has been able to keep off. Her motivation to continue wasn’t just about losing weight, however. She wanted to lower her risk for diabetes, which runs in her family.

Two years ago, Heather joined a gym. To help her stay accountable. she takes a selfie when finished with her workout and posts it to Snapchat.

She is committed to going to the gym as often as she can. Her office is a 24/7 operation so she often works odd shifts and very long hours. When this happens, and she can’t make it to the gym, she works out on a break in the conference room, doing squats or using a workout video. She religiously wears her Fitbit, making sure she reaches 10,000/day. If she is short, she will even walk around her house or go up/down stairs to hit the goal. The Fitbit also calculates the number of calories she is burning when she works out. She logs those burned calories into the MyFitnessPal app along with logging pretty much anything she eats. That helps her to stay at least in the ballpark for her daily calorie goal. Heather said the use of the MyFitnessPal app really helped her realize how many calories she was eating. It has been a huge aid in weight loss for her.

Last year, Heather injured her back and was out of work for a month. She couldn’t exercise at all and or even make her own food. Heather pushed on though, not letting the pain and injury totally derail her lifestyle. With the help of a vigorous physical therapy program, Heather was able to slowly get back to a regular routine. She now pays more attention to using good form when exercising to avoid another injury. She keeps her workouts fresh by getting inspiration from social media.

For Heather, slow and steady wins the race. By changing her lifestyle, not only has she lost weight and reduced her risk for disease, but she feels a whole lot better too.


Hoa Young

Hoa Young has worked for the City for over 25 years, starting out as an aide in the Mayor’s office. Since then she has worked as a Project Management Technician for PED in the Annex.

Hoa has grown to appreciate the importance of staying active and eating well as she ages. She doesn’t have an extreme exercise program but rather does what she describes as low impact, age appropriate exercise which anyone could do.

To start with, Hoa lives in Lowertown and walks home approximately one mile from work most days. She participates in the free, lunch time Pilates class offered at City Hall. She may not do the whole hour but she finds 15-20 minutes helps clear her head and reduces any stress she is feeling. The instructor, Anca Sima, supports her in doing what works for her, saying doing anything is good. Hoa feels that – you have to move it or lose it.

Three years ago, Hoa began taking T’ai-Chi Qigong class. She goes most Sundays along with her husband to the Saint Paul Yoga Center for these classes. The philosophy behind Tai chi Qigong is based on the concept of five elements with (metal, wood, water, fire and earth) each element representing certain organs in the body. The exercise consists of deep breath, flowing movements and meditation to draw the Chi (energy) to the body to keep the organs healthy.

In terms of eating, Hoa strives to maintain a healthy weight by just watching what and how much she eats. She aims at eating simple, balanced and healthy food. She mostly cooks Vietnamese food that consists of rice (blending white and brown), meat and fresh vegetables. In the morning, she may have a half bagel with cream cheese or a yogurt. A small handful of nuts will serve as a snack during the day and before bedtime, or cheese, crackers and fruit. Tofu is a staple in her kitchen.

Recently Hoa started teaching cooking classes at Mississippi Market’s Eastside location. She likes to share her passion for cooking simple and healthy food and mostly authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Her next class is in October, “Vietnamese Chicken Three Ways”. You can find out more here:
Hoa is also adventurous in trying other cuisines of the world. She cooks Thai, Chinese, Italian, French, Korean. Her favorite thing to do is to watch cooking shows early Saturday morning.

Hoa understands that keeping a healthy lifestyle can take discipline; but after a while it becomes a habit. She also feels that emotional health is also important to living a long, healthy life so Hoa tries to focus on the positive things around her. She reminds herself daily of the good fortune of having a good family with a husband of 48 years, three well-adjusted children and seven grandchildren. She believes there is really no reason to complain but be thankful for all she has.


Police Officer Fitness Test

Each year, Saint Paul police officers undergo fitness testing. This testing provides valuable information to the officers regarding their ability to respond to the physical demands of the job. The officers’ results are compared to population standards for age and gender.

This year changes were made to the testing process to keep current with the latest research and trends in law enforcement fitness testing. Officers now have two testing options from which to choose for their annual fitness test.

Testing option #1: Physical Fitness Test (PFT). Listed below are the fitness components that are measured and the tests used to assess that component.

Aerobic endurance:
1.5 mile run (the 12 minute Navy bicycle test or one mile walk are also provided to those who have an injury or medical condition preventing them from safely completing the run.)
Body composition: Waist measurement or body fat percentage test using either skinfold pinch test or a body fat scale.
Explosive power: Vertical Jump. Standing with one arm raised overhead, that height is noted; the score is then the number of inches above that point the officer can reach with jumping.
Muscular Strength/endurance: choice of maximum number of pushups or 1 repetition max bench press (ratio of weight to lbs. pressed one time)

Testing option #2: 2000 meter row
This test is new this year and specifically requires the use of a Concept 2 Rowing machine. A 2000 meter row tests the aerobic capacity, as well as the muscular strength and muscular endurance of the entire body all at once. Strength, overall power and the ability to continuously apply power play a key role in rowing performance. Rowing also requires strong core musculature to brace the midsection to use both the lower and upper body together to row. Nearly all of the body’s muscles are used during rowing. Scoring for the test is based on gender, body weight and time to complete.
Upon completion of a fitness test, the Physical Fitness Specialist for the department, Jim Hensrud, can then recommend a training program to improve the officers’ fitness if needed.


Run Club

This month, we are featuring employees who run Saint Paul – at least that is what their t-shirts say! These employees are the members of Run Club which was started this year by OFS employee Bridget Morales. It includes employees from a variety of City departments, all of whom have different paces and abilities. It provides motivational support, an opportunity to explore different running routes and an outlet for those who share their same interest. They like the team atmosphere and the opportunity to meet and network with other department employees. For some, it feels safer running in a group rather than alone. They see it contributing to a Healthy Saint Paul.

Below is what three members had to say about Run Club.

Marissa Peterson, OFS. “I love Run Club because it is a great way to be active with other people from around the City. I usually run on my own, so it is fun to be able to exercise in a group environment. It definitely pushes me to work harder! I also love the way I feel when I come back to work after Run Club – I always feel like I have more energy to get through the rest of the workday.”

Brett Hussong, Parks and Rec. “I’ve found that it is difficult to exercise when I get home from work, so I typically run 4-5 days each week over lunch. I run to get outside, and to mentally take a break from work. I find I’m more productive in the afternoon if I get away from my desk during the day. I joined the running club as a way to network, and to meet new people both inside and outside of the city. I stay motivated because we run a different route each week, and we generally get to experience the river corridor!”

Mary Guerra, OFS. “I started running in the last 5 years or so. Nothing competitive, just recreational. I’m likely the slowest runner in Run Club . The farthest distance I’ve ever run is a Half Marathon (13.1 miles) this last Halloween. It took me two and a half hours to complete. I felt so proud! I’m currently training for my first Ragnar relay race this August (200 mile race from Winona to the Twin Cities). I’ll be running Ragnar with Run Club mastermind Bridget Morales. Many of the runners in the Run Club have done one or more marathons, so it’s very inspirational and encouraging. Everybody is welcome in the Run Club, runners of all speeds. What keeps me coming to Run Club is the ability to run with friends. I usually run on my own wearing my headphones, so it’s nice to do a group run where I can run while connecting with others too.”

All employees are invited to join Run Club. It meets every Wednesday in the first floor lobby of the Saint Paul Athletic Club/Hotel, 340 Cedar Street. There is a restroom that can be used for changing and there is also a place to store a duffle bag if needed. To store a bag, label the bag with your name and “Run Club”. For more information, contact Bridget at

Do you have questions for our featured employee?
Send them to us at and we will publish a Q&A in a future issue.