Ramsey Coronado

Ramsey Coronado has worked for the City as a Water Utility Technician for three years. He is originally from Houston, Texas and attended college in Tucson, Arizona. He is often asked what brought him from two of the warmest places in the country to one of the coldest. Primarily, his decision to move here was because of the opportunity to work with the Water Department. He admits, however, it was also based on the experience he had doing internships here in Minnesota on the Mississippi River during the summer months. The winter is somewhat longer, and it does get a bit colder here than he expected! Nevertheless, he finds his job very rewarding working with the engineers and other contractors as they improve water services for the community.

Last year, to complete the activity requirement for Healthy Saint Paul, Ramsey chose Health Coaching. He had had prior experience using a fitness coach at his gym. It was helpful for him then to have someone provide guidance and motivation. He consequently saw the value in choosing Health Coaching to achieve and maintain his better overall health.

Ramsey appreciated the HealthPartners Health Coach with whom he worked. She was knowledgeable in various aspects of health and provided relevant information and resources. There is accountability when using a health coach which Ramsey feels is important in following through with what you say you are going to do to reach your goal. They talked about what motivated him, and he received great feedback. He said talking with a professional can give you a better or different approach and will help keep you on track. For employees who have never used a health coach and may feel unsure of the process, he would reassure them that it is a valuable tool to improving and maintaining your health. And, who doesn’t want to be healthy?


Chara Blanch

Chara Blanch has worked for the City of Saint Paul for the past 2 years as a Labor Relations Specialist in Human Resources. Prior to coming to the City, she worked as an HR consultant at the University of Minnesota.

Chara is a busy single mom to her highly energetic 10 year old son. He is a hockey player which means most nights they are at practices or games. Not surprisingly, choosing frozen, quick foods or eating out a lot of the time became part of their regular routine.

Unfortunately for Chara, just three weeks after beginning work at the City of Saint Paul, she shattered her ankle. This injury required a second surgery this fall. The pending surgery really got Chara to think about her health. She wanted to go into it as healthy as she could be, hoping it would mean a quicker and easier recovery. It was at this time that a friend told her about the Whole 30 Eating Plan. Her friend had great results – her frequent migraines went from three to four a week to none. Chara decided she had nothing to lose by trying this.

The Whole 30 Eating Plan promotes itself as “a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.” Its philosophy lies in helping you find out how foods you eat may be affecting your health by cutting out different foods and then gradually re-introducing them to your body.
Chara quit the fast food and frozen, quick meals. She found out that planning meals was really not that difficult. The eating plan provided recipes that were tasty and simple – i.e. putting a roast beef in the crock pot with different seasonings.

This new eating plan seemed to work for Chara. She feels like she has a ton of energy and has lost 23 lbs. without feeling hungry. The swelling in her injured ankle was greatly reduced prior to surgery. A few weeks post-surgery, her ankle feels better than it has since she broke it. She has been able to maintain the weight loss. Chara plans to do another Whole 30 program in January and will begin training for a triathlon in the next month.

The Whole 30 Eating Plan is quite a restrictive diet and may not be for everyone. It helped Chara get back on track to following a much healthier way to eat though by cutting out the junk food and adding lots of fruits and veggies


Chief Tim Butler

A few years ago, Chief Butler was much heavier. He wanted to do something about that. His first step was entering a weight loss challenge that was held within the Fire Department. His wife’s place of employment was also holding a similar challenge that spouses could join. During these challenges, he became aware of the value of calorie counting and tracking exercise. At the end of 16 weeks, he and his wife had each lost 49 lbs.

A TV show the Chief enjoys watching is “Biggest Loser.” The program shows how weight loss can be so empowering. He believes people who are that successful develop this mental toughness that can translate into achieving anything to which they set their mind.

A tool the Chief relies heavily on is his Fitbit. It makes it easy to track the food he eats, his weight and all his exercise. He attributes his ability to maintain his weight to closely monitoring his daily habits.

To be successful, Chief Butler believes you have to start with a goal. It has to be realistic and something you enjoy doing. The Chief enjoys running. He made a goal a few years ago to run every street in the City of Saint Paul. Using a large map showing all the City streets, he creates the day’s route and highlights it when completed. He will have completed all City streets as he runs Summit Avenue/John Ireland towards the finish line of the Twin Cities Marathon this fall.


The PEDestrians

This month’s Employee Story is featuring the Walk Around the Clock Challenge winners, the PEDestrians. Their story is an example of how peer support along with a challenge can provide much motivation to continue.
The PEDestrians are made up of five employees from, of course, PED. It includes Beth Ulrich, Dave Gontarek, Penny McMahon, Michele Swanson and Dan Bayers. At the end of the challenge, team members averaged an amazing 123 hours for the six weeks. The PEdestrians range in age from the mid-40’s to early 60’s and have varying levels of fitness. While they all had been physically active prior to the challenge, this gave them an opportunity to kick it up a notch. Whether they were participating in a Jazzercize class or training for a marathon, they came together as a team to support each other. Beth said it was like having a “full team of cheerleaders”.

A common consensus was that it was fun participating with co-workers.
They entered the challenge without the thought of winning; they were just looking for motivation and to have fun. Three of the members already were walking together during lunch. As the challenge progressed, they were surprised to see themselves near the top. That provided inspiration to kick it up a notch as a team and individually. No one wanted to let fellow team mates down! In addition to the lunchtime walks, Beth added evening activity to her day; Penny was not generally activity on the weekends but participated in two 5K’s walked on Saturdays while up at the cabin; in addition to her lunch hour walks, Michele added evening Jazzercize classes.
Now that the challenge is over? Two of the team members have started running on their lunch breaks. The additional weekend workouts will continue. They will continue to motivate each other, and the Fitbits they won will provide the feedback to motivate themselves to stick with it.


Lori Holden

Lori Holden has been a Payroll Specialist with the City of Saint Paul for three years. This is a particularly busy job as you may guess with the Payroll changes that have taken place this past year. Lori’s job is computer focused, making it hard for her to get away from her desk. All of this sitting combined with not always being able to eat a very healthy diet translated into unwanted weight gain, plus not feeling as healthy. In addition, Lori has 13 year old twin daughters whose schedules keep her quite busy outside of work.
It wasn’t always like this for Lori. Owning her own business prior to coming to the City afforded her a very flexible schedule. It was much easier to be active. She performed regular weight training, ran races, and did other cardio work-outs.
Last year, Lori decided to make some changes. She joined Weight Watchers at Work and was successful in losing 15 lbs. She also joined the St. Paul Athletic Club and began to work out again. Lori wears a Fitbit that provides a lot of motivation. She takes advantage of the Fitbit challenges, this week doing the “Work Week Hustle.” She has also done the “Weekend Warrior Challenge” and participated in “Goal Day.” She connects with friends through the Fitbit app. They cheer each other on or maybe even taunt each other a little to provide extra motivation.
Lori has appreciated the support she receives through Healthy Saint Paul. Having a Weight Watchers program at work makes it easy to attend; comparing biometrics year to year helps her know how well she is doing; and the 10,000 Steps challenge keeps her moving. She has learned that tracking her eating is so important in eating healthy and staying active is the key to feeling her best.


Andrea Flohr

This employee’s story is proof that the older you get, the more fit and healthy you CAN become!
Andrea Flohr has worked for the City of Saint Paul since 1990 and currently works at the Water Department in the warehouse as a Storekeeper.
About seven years ago, Andrea went on a mission to reduce her blood pressure and weight. She began a walking program. Shortly thereafter, when turning 50 years old, an older co-worker challenged her to begin riding her bike to work. At first, she just thought of all the reasons she couldn’t: busy streets, hills, too far, etc. However, she decided to accept the challenge and has been riding every day since, as long as there is not ice and snow. Her ride is about eight miles each way though she will often take a longer route on the ride home to get in more miles.
This has changed her life. She describes feeling more toned and just overall more healthy. In addition to riding to work, Andrea goes to LA Fitness three to four times a week and participates in the Yoga classes offered at the Water Department. At 56, she says she feels more flexible now than at age 26! In addition, each year she participates in organized biking events including the Saint Paul Classic and the Iron Man bike ride.
The challenge is what continues to motivate Andrea. For anyone doubting what they can do, she recommends just starting with baby steps; seven years ago, she began with just walking and today is more fit and healthy that ever.


Jamie Karras

This month we are featuring Jamie Karras, the overall winner of the Lose Weight in 8 Challenge. Jamie has worked for the City of Saint Paul for approximately eight years. He enjoys his work in Traffic Operations for Public Works, doing maintenance on the meters in the downtown area.

Two years ago, Jamie quit smoking. While he knew that was important for his health, like many other people who stop smoking, he gained weight: 20 lbs. Weight gain often happens when instead of reaching for a cigarette, ex-smokers reach for food.

Jamie is also a part time firefighter with the City of Maplewood. The firefighters must pass an annual physical. The physical exam showed he had high blood pressure that had to be treated. Jamie did go on high blood pressure medication but, as he puts it, “I don’t want to be on pills”. His doctor told him to lose weight as this will often help lower blood pressure. He then would be able to go off the pills.
Not being on medication was a big motivator for Jamie. He began a strict diet – no more fast food, cutting calories and carbs. He still occasionally treats himself to his favorite pizza and sometimes Chipotle, but not as frequent as before.
When the Lose Weight in 8 Challenge began, he thought, “Why not? I am determined to do this anyway so might as well join.” By the end of the eight week challenge, Jamie had dropped 21 lbs. – almost three pounds per week! He is not at his goal weight yet though; he wants to lose another 34 lbs. He is giving himself a year to do this. He is active in his work as he walks all day downtown and then also walks his dog in the evening after work. He is confident he will reach his goal by doing it gradually but consistently. Jamie was the winner of a Target $50 gift card for his efforts. Good job, Jamie!


EMPLOYEE STORY: Tell us about yourself or a co-worker!

We are looking for stories of City of Saint Paul employees to feature in our monthly newsletter and on this website. Do you know of an employee (or are you an employee) who:
– has adopted a healthy lifestyle;
– reached a fitness or health goal;
– trained and competed in an athletic event;
– or whose journey would inspire others to NOT GIVE UP?
We’d love to hear from you (click here to read past employee stories). Contact us at Featured employees will receive a Healthy Saint Paul hooded sweatshirt.
Read below a story we ran last year about an employee whose biometric screening results revealed a health issue he was able to get under control before it became a serious problem.


Last year, like so many other employees, I was participating in the Healthy Saint Paul Well-Being program so I could earn the incentive. I signed up for the onsite screening. My results came back and showed I had higher than normal cholesterol levels and off the chart blood glucose level.
I made an appointment with my doctor figuring he would yell at me about my diet, give me a pill to assist with the high cholesterol and get me on the right path.
Well, I was right about having him yell at me and giving me a pill – he put me on cholesterol medications. What I didn’t expect to hear and what shocked me was that I was diagnosed with diabetes. That was a real wake up call for me. I now needed to get serious with my diet – eating the good carbs vs the bad carbs, watching the sugars, making better choices with a real eating plan. Additionally, I began to inject insulin and also take diabetes meds.
The good news is I lost about 25 lbs. I’m running and working out every day. I know that is important to stay with it, too.
I’m still having my bad days with the low carb/low sugar diet but I’m plugging along. I owe a great deal to the screening process because it forced me to deal with my numbers and also got me on the right meds. It also got me hooked into leading a healthy lifestyle.


Sara Nurmela

WinterSkate at Landmark Plaza

You can find Sara Nurmela at the Wells Fargo WinterSkate rink nearly every weekday in the wintertime. Instead of staying indoors for lunch, Nurmela bundles up and heads out to the Landmark Plaza in downtown St. Paul to ice skate.
“The two months the rink is up makes for my favorite lunch breaks of the year,” remarked Nurmela, a Woodbury resident who works for the city of St. Paul. “Unless my schedule is too busy or the weather is too cold, I’m out there! I appreciate that I’ve met people from different companies downtown and become friends with them over the years. The Winter Skate staff is also fantastic, I feel like I’ve gotten to know them, too.”
“The scenery is beautiful!” Sara said. “Almost prettier at night with all the lights, but the urban landscape is also gorgeous on a sunny day.”


“The rink is great motivation for me to get outside and away from the office and my cubicle,” Nurmela said. “And even though coworkers pick on me for having rosy cheeks for the rest of the day, truthfully I’d rather be skating than going for a walk on my lunch break.”
The Green Tree team. Nurmela is  the one with her fist raised.


Nurmela plays on one of those corporate broomball teams, the Green Tree team. Seven years ago, one of the Green Tree Servicing team regulars asked her to play, and she’s been on the team ever since.
“Broomball is closely related to hockey—but is generally less expensive,” said Nurmela. “It’s a fun team sport that people of all different abilities and sporting backgrounds can be involved in. Having coed teams helps to make it fun, as well. Running on ice levels the playing field, which makes the game about passing and teamwork.”
She started playing broomball in college at Michigan Technological University in northern Michigan. A rink set up by the dorms meant that broomball was a popular activity nearly everyone was involved in — “almost a rite of passage for living in the dorms,” recalled Nurmela.
“Although broomball makes me miss hockey, I really appreciate being able to be involved in a team sport,” she said. Nurmela played on her college women’s hockey team, serving as captain her junior year and president of the club her senior year. For Nurmela, skating can be either leisurely or a good workout depending on how you feel that day.
REPRINTED with permission from REDCURRENT


Kathleen Conger

Our featured employee this month is Kathleen Conger. Kathleen currently works as manager of the Dayton’s Bluff library. A fifteen-year City employee, Kathleen is also a founding member of the Healthy Saint Paul Well-Being Committee.
You can find Kathleen on her bicycle riding to work most days from April-October. Her philosophy is: “If it isn’t raining, I ride.” She enjoys not only the exercise but the time it provides her to wind down on the way home. Plus, it’s a great way to avoid traffic jams and saves money on gas; not to mention that it helps in reducing cars on the road.
Kathleen’s recent trip to Europe was a reflection of her active lifestyle. It began with a Groupon she found for a seven day river cruise that followed the Danube River from Passau, Germany to Budapest. When she saw that the cruise offered a bicycling option, that appealed to her as a great low key option, so she booked the cruise.
As it turned out, the reality was that people took this cruise to bike – there’s not much else to do on the boat. The average age of the passengers was 65 – and out of the 91 passengers, about 85 took advantage of the bicycling option. There was a wide range of biking abilities, like Michael from Germany who looked like an Olympian and liked to say, “Water, what’s that? I only drink beer;” and Tara, a 65+ year old bodybuilder from Brooklyn who was the navigator and always chose the long route.
Bicycling routes were mapped out with points of interest marked. For five of the seven days on the cruise, Kathleen bicycled through towns in Germany, Austria, and Slovakia.
Kathleen was in Europe for two additional weeks visiting Nuremberg, Fussen and Munich. She also had an opportunity to spend a day hiking in the Swiss Alps. Her impression overall was that European cities are very walkable, have great public transportation – and lots of people playing accordions!