Posts Tagged “city”

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

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.


20 Must-Have Experiences in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

20 Must-Have Experiences in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

Pairs Well With…Traveling + Adventure + Discovery

When moving to a new city, it’s easy to start exploring, beginning with the sights you should see.  Petronas Towers, check!  Batu Caves, check!  It was in Kuala Lumpur, the city of skyscrapers and lookout points and the first one-month stop within my Remote Year journey, where I pledged to be more than just a common tourist and immerse myself in unique experiences.

But what happens when you think you’ve seen it all?  

You put on your Dora the Explorer gear and get to gettin’, finding those local city gems others wish they had found.  Combined with some of the best tourist attractions, here are the most outstanding local finds and things to do in the fine city of Kuala Lumpur:

  1. Enjoy a drink on a helipad at Heli Lounge Bar.  A helipad for landing by day, and a rooftop patio by night, Heli Lounge Bar offers spectacular views of the KL sunset.  Grab a glass and sip into the sunset.

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

2. Dine banana leaf style.  The banana leaves serve as plates in an effort to reduce waste.  Instagram-worthy in and of itself, you begin with a base meal of banana leaf rice and vegetables topped with sauces and proteins to your liking.  The best part of this meal?  No silverware required. You eat with your hands.  Monkey see, monkey do, follow suit and eat like the locals do.  Check out a few of my favorites around town: Raj’s Banana Leaf, Restoran Sri Nirwana Maju Bangsar, and Vishalatchi Food Catering.

3. Hike Broga Hill.  An easy 45-minute drive into nature outside of KL’s city limits – and every minute worth it.  Set your alarm early as you won’t want to miss the beauty of the morning sunrise. If you are going for sunrise, prepare for the hour long, beginner-intermediate hike by bringing water, bug spray and a flashlight or headlamp.

4. Feast in the “Food Dungeon.”  Buried below the bustling streets, this multi-heritage, 30 vendor deep food fest offers something for everyone.  With highly affordable, authentic meals, you can taste your way across the globe.

5. Savor a symphony.  Lyrics lover or not, the shows at the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra are music to the ears.  The orchestra hall is a showstopper and a sight to be seen.

Photo Credit: Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra

6. Feel the beat.  As a dancer for many years, I am always in pursuit of new dance studios, styles and classes.  Geetha Shankaran Dance, offering a variety of classes, from Indian to Hip Hop Fusion, provides instruction to both youth and adult audiences.  Yoga classes are offered as well.

7. Peak from the Petronas Towers.  Visiting Kuala Lumpur and not seeing the dynamic 88-floor skyscrapers wouldn’t be right.  Almost the tallest in the world at just under 452 meters high, these two towers symbolize Malaysia as an up and coming global presence.  The former Prime Minister’s vision for these towers was to reflect “courage, ingenuity, initiative, determination, energy, confidence, optimism, advancement and zest.”

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

8. Love your latte.  There are many cute and quaint coffee shops in the city that offer a nice, quiet break in the day.  Whether catching up on emails or cranking through a page turner, these coffee shops offer up some of the best lattes, sweet and savory meals, and enchanting atmospheres.  Best latte in town?  Check out Coffee Amo for hand-crafted delights.

9. Affinities for Infinities.  Kuala Lumpur houses some of the best infinity pools you could ever imagine, with Capri by Fraser being a front-runner favorite.  Make sure to switch up your scenery, get your shine on, and soak up your daily dose of Vitamin D – all with a breathtaking view while in the blue.

Photo Credit: Capri by Fraser

10. Be awestruck at Batu Caves.  This Hindu temple houses the iconic Murugan statue, perfectly positioned for a photo opp prior to entering the caves.  You’ll walk up 272 stairs to get to the top, but the walk through the caves and to the picturesque opening is worth every step.  (Beware of the thieving monkeys!  No, seriously.)

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

11. Eat street meat.  Yes, I understand this may sound odd, but it’s everywhere. Quick to get, convenient to eat, and pretty to look at, your street meat varietals easily serve as dinner de jour. Keep your eyes out for these street meat vendors (really known as Lok Lok) who serve not only meat, but also many other skewer assortments.

12. Kick it at the KL Tower.  Another KL must-see landmark, both day and night.  During the day, you can head to the top of the tower and scope out the scene from above.  At night, the tower sometimes offers a musically synced, can’t-miss light show.

13. Find unfamiliar foods. One of the most exciting things about visiting a new place is trying new foods.  Kuala Lumpur offers a large dose of Indian, Chinese and Malaysian foods, among other styles of dining.  Wander along Jalan Alor, also known as “Food Street” and indulge in items such as fish balls, drunken noodles, Lok Lok….and meat floss.  (Mark my words, I will see to it that I have a full understanding of what meat floss is before leaving the country.)

14. Trek through the tiniest rainforest. The Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, living in the heart of KL, is a piece of peace in the middle of the city.  Take a nice stroll through the scenic forest and embrace the lush greenery among the concrete jungle.

15. Temples & Thaipusam.  If you’re lucky enough to be in KL during the once a year Thaipusam event, you must attend.  Thousands of spectators line the streets in an effort to observe the sparkling chariot making its way to the Batu Caves.  Not in town for Thaipusam?  No problem!  KL has many temples to visit and meditate in.  Practice mind over matter in these beautiful buildings.

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

16. Fancy a foot massage.  Those long days of walking will get to those tootsies.  With most of the foot reflexology shops being open until the wee hours of the morning, it’s easy to take a load off, day or night.  Make sure to swing by D’Care where a 60-minute foot rub is $12 USD.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

17. See street art.  Mural, mural on the wall, which one is the best of them all?  The right answer?  All of them.  Lining the streets of KL lie many story-filled visual masterpieces designed by local artists.  Some of the best pieces are lurking in the most unexpected places. Looks are free.

18.  Nosh at Nagasari Curry House.  Food shame me if you must for my weekly repeat visits, but let’s not fix what’s not broken. Right?  Plus, there’s something to be said when your favorite neighborhood restaurant nails it – every time.

19. Bob your head at No Black Tie.  Love live music?  Well then, this joint is the place to be.  With a jazz vibe and good wine, it’s the recipe for a perfect Saturday night.

20. Dine differently.  Whether Dining in the Dark or in the sky at 164 feet in the air, you’ll enjoy the luxuries of 3+ course meals with a unique, sensory experience.

Departing March 4th, 2017 for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam & March 6th for Hanoi & Halong Bay!

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