The Mayor & Me (What You Don’t Know About South St. Paul)

Pairs Well With… South St. Paul Pride + Excitement – Great Things to Come

Newly elected Mayor Jimmy Francis

The Mayor and Me.  Me and The Mayor.  Either way, it has a nice ring, don’t you think? One of the things I love about life is crossing paths by happenstance. You can’t always know where a simple hello, a kind smile or brief conversation with a stranger will lead.  In this instance, it was a case of friendly banter that progressed into a unique partnership and an opportunity to learn more about the underrated city of South St. Paul.

Let’s time travel backward for a moment, shall we?  It all started in August at the land of everything on a stick, the Minnesota State Fair.  I was proudly showcasing my Minneapolis pride (in St. Paul) by wearing my “I Heart Mpls” tank top, and he was dressed in his “I Heart South St. Paul” t-shirt. It was a shirt showdown of the two cities.
The man, unknown to me at this point, walked up and introduced himself as Jimmy Francis, candidate-in-the-running for the Mayor of South St. Paul.  After a brief episode of “whose city is better” banter, I decided I liked the guy.  Witty. Personable. Easy going. Knowledgable. Overall, solid. One thousand percent the kind of person I would want to run my city.  His character is what all politicians should have at their core: an energetic vision and relatable personality.  After a photo and business card exchange, I wished him well in his election and was on my way to find deep fried everythings.

Fast forward to December.  The election had come and gone, the shimmer of the holidays had concluded, and I’m sitting at lunch with my family drinking a martini, plotting my work resignation. Because that’s what every normal person does on a Tuesday afternoon, right?

My poor table manners decided they needed to check in to see what was happening in my inbox. I had an email titled “connect.”

The newly elected mayor had come across my card from the fair and reached out to see if there was partnership potential.  He invited me to attend his swearing-in ceremony at the beginning of the year.  Before our discussions and my research, I knew very little about South St. Paul.  The preconceived notion in my head was that it was full of crime and a far drive.  Not so.

The swearing in of Mayor Francis

Everything I knew or thought I knew about South St. Paul was a far cry from its actual flourishing state. My curiosity caused me to dig into local crime index ratings to educate myself on how South St. Paul stacked up against the larger, well-known Twin Cities: Minneapolis and St. Paul.  According to Neighborhood Scout, here the three city’s crime rates:

City                      Crime Rating (100 is safest; i.e. 5 crime rating = safer than 5% of cities in the U.S.)
Minneapolis       5
St. Paul               10
South St. Paul   19
(Details of the crimes that contribute to these indexes can be found here.)

Because I’ve been living in my Minneapolis bubble for so long, I’ve not paid attention to other neighboring cities. As it turns out, South St. Paul is the safest of the three cities.  So why does it get such a bad rap?  My best guess is that a past reputation has carried forward for years because no one has chosen to do anything ongoing about it.

Until now.

Mayor Francis spent a half day taking me around South St. Paul after only two weeks in office.  He shared his vision for the city and goals for the year, as well as some of the city’s best assets.  I couldn’t help but feel inspired. South St. Paul should be excited for the great things in store.  Could a potential move to South St. Paul be in place upon my overseas return?

Our first stop was to Town Square Television, the local community cable TV station serving the seven cities of Northern Dakota County.  The station’s programming covers everything from high school sports to music and entertainment, to local city meetings such as the swearing in ceremony I attended earlier this month.

One of the things I found fascinating at Town Square Television is the state-of-the-art multi-media studio, which means you can create your own videos and programming.  (Think Wayne’s World, my friends!) They even have a green screen!  Town Square Television offers a handful of head turning services including:

Memberships start at $25 for residents and $50 for non-residents.  Town Square Television is a great venue and community resource to be able to bring creativity to life.

Our next stop was around and through a few of the city’s renovated areas and historical landmarks. The Kaposia Landing Off Leash Dog Park, a 6.3 acre fully fenced perimeter gem, is perfect for pooches big and small, and strolling all year round.  It’s spacious, offers lovely views of the Mississippi River, and is highly affordable, too, with annual residential memberships at only $20!  Expect this destination to be a gathering spot for more than just the young pups in coming years.

Also included in our fifty cent tour was a drive-by of the new lacrosse and soccer facilities, schools, and the South St. Paul History Mural and Municipal Airport. The history mural, according to the description on GigaPan “tells the story of the city’s founding and settlement. The mural includes the shabby treatment of the Native Americans in the area, as well as the city’s growth into a meat packing center.”  It’s quite a sight up close.

Photo Credit: Tom Nelson

The South St. Paul airport is where pilot turned president George H. Bush did his flight training.  Its history dates back to the 40’s and has remained one of the city’s flagship landmarks.  Now, when the Mayor told me to be ready for a 3 pm flight and not to wear heels, I thought he was kidding.

He wasn’t.

Our final stop of the afternoon was Wipaire, Inc., aircraft and seaplane manufacturer.  Upon arrival, I met my pilot, Brian, and chatted with him about what our flight would look like, as well as his flying background.  Unsure of what I was in store for, I boarded the plane, took a few deep breaths, buckled up, and braced myself for an unexpected adventure.

We flew around the bordering limits of South St. Paul so I could take in the aerial view.

These planes are known for being able to land in water, something you can’t do this time of year in Minnesota, but intriguing none the less.  Flight lessons are offered through the company’s partners.

The best part?  Perhaps it’s all the great things to come for South St. Paul.  I had the chance to touch base with the Mayor this week on his 2017 goals, which I found to be encouraging:

  • Run good meetings where South St. Paul citizens can see the action we are taking to engage them and their needs.
  • Bring in new and unique business to South St. Paul.
  • Revise neighborhood watch, including our vertical neighborhoods in highrise buildings in and around South St. Paul, in an effort re-engage our residents and business owners to take back the town we love and keep looking out for each other.  
  • Invite new young families to South St. Paul.  We are close to everything, and we need good people to backfill our city streets as our elderly move out.

 

I can honestly say that I was highly impressed by South St. Paul’s charm and all that the city has to offer.  I was unaware of all these wonderful community assets within reach, which means that my eyes aren’t open wide enough, and I need to expand my personal radius.  I leave you with a few interesting facts about this great city.  Although I’m living in Asia, I still plan to keep an eye on all things South St. Paul from afar.  Who knows, after my Remote Year adventures, maybe I’ll find myself living on the other side of the Twin Cities.

 

DID YOU KNOW?  (All the things you didn’t know about South St. Paul)

  • South St. Paul was the first in the nation to have a woman vote.  We ended women’s suffrage in right here in Minnesota.
  • The South St. Paul Fleming Field Airport was a US NAVY training facility for WWII. George H. W. Bush did his training from this airport. After the war, the Navy leased the land for $1 to the city of South St. Paul and they operate it today as a recreational facility.
  • We have had three Minnesota Governors and one almost Presidential Nomination from South St. Paul?  Yes, Governor Harold LeVander, Governor Tim Pawlenty and Governor Harold Stassen.  Governor Stassen went on to almost win Republican Party nomination for President in 1948.

 

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