By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Former Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. may have left office, but his legacy of improving health in the city remains in City Hall.
To help city employees exercise and recognize Reed’s commitment to improving health, the task force on health created by the former mayor donated a treadmill for employees to use.
“He started the whole initiative to help Tupelo become a healthier city,” said Liz Dawson, chair of the health task force. “City employees were a part of that.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield named Tupelo the state’s healthiest hometown in 2012, which came with a $50,000 award.
Along with paying for the treadmill, Dawson said the task force has helped support a “health on a shelf” program for convenience stores to provide healthier options and other efforts to support healthy lifestyles.
The treadmill was placed in the first-floor mailroom in City Hall. City employees sign up to use the exercise equipment during business hours.
The healthy task force wasn’t alone in donating exercise equipment to the city. Darrell Smith, Tupelo’s chief operations officer, also donated his personal elliptical exercise machine for use.
“Some of the people in City Hall said we needed exercise machines,” Smith said. “I had one and brought it.”
Smith said healthier employees are more productive, miss fewer days sick and cost less in insurance expenses.
In the mailroom where the machines are kept, employees have started signing up to use them. Lesley Rakestraw, an engineer assistant with the city, began exercising in late 2012 when he weighed 400 pounds. He has since lost about 70 pounds and plans to lose more than 100 more.
Sometimes he’s unable to leave the office during his lunch break and has started using the treadmill.
“It makes exercise a whole lot easier,” Rakestraw said.
A healthy work environment likely won’t change with new Mayor Jason Shelton, who has vowed to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year and continue employee programs that promote exercise.
“I’m going to start daily exercise and trying to watch my diet more,” Shelton said.