HAZARD — In the four-county area that makes up the local postal district, nearly 20 different postmasters are retiring this year, including four here in Perry County.
Along with several large announcements in 2011 concerning major changes coming in the postal service, many of the service’s longtime employees were given the option to retire. In the 52 different post offices that make up the postal district in which Perry County belongs, 19 employees decided to take this option and will be serving their last days as postal employees in the coming weeks.
It has been well known for the past couple of years that the United States Postal Service remains in severe debt, and officials began to look at drastic changes in the coming years to stay viable. One of these large changes was to close thousands of post offices across the country. While this remains on hold due to Congressional action, the postal service has moved to cut costs by offering retirement to many of its most seasoned employees.
One of these employees just recently celebrated 50 years with the postal service after following in the footsteps of his family members. Delbert Eversole has been the postmaster at Krypton since he was a young man. He took over the Krypton Post Office from his father, who had 20 years with the postal service himself.
Eversole also runs a general store in Krypton in the same building as the post office, so he said that despite having 50 years under his belt, he will still be around and get to see everyone.
“I will miss it, the people,” said Eversole. “But I have still got the little store right next door. I will just hang down there so maybe it won’t change a big lot.”
Along with Eversole, another long time postmaster opting for retirement is Bob Turner, the postmaster at the Hazard office. Turner has been with Hazard for 43 years and worked his way up from a mail carrier. He said he had not planned on retiring when he did, but realized it was a good time when they offered him a good retirement package.
Turner said that working for the postal service has been such a huge part of his life that it will mean big changes for him.
“It has basically been my only job, and it is going to be sad to not see the people,” he said. “It is just going to be a big change.”
One postmaster who is looking forward to some of these changes is Nolan Allen, with the Ary Post Office.
“When I will really appreciate it is the first day I wake up and look out the door and there is 6 inches of new snow that I don’t have to shovel right away,” said Allen.
While he will not miss living up to the postal service motto, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” he said he will miss the people.
“It becomes your family, your friends,” Allen said. “It is your work and your social life to a large extent. A lot of that is going to be gone. I am going to get up Wednesday and I am not getting up to go to work.”
Sam Caudill is the postmaster at Jeff, and while he was not planning on retirement either, like the others he took the opportunity when it came along.
“It more or less caught me off guard really,” Caudill said. “The incentive that was offered kind of caught a lot of us off guard, I would say.”
Caudill has been at Jeff since 1978 but started at the Hazard Post Office 44 years ago. Along with his long years with the postal service he also spent 38 years with the military, and recently served in the Middle East.
All of these postmasters and several others met at a retirement party at Jabo’s State of Mine in Hazard last week. The party was set up by Turner and Mike Campbell. Turner said that as postmasters most of them do not get to see each other often, and this was a good way to get together one last time.
“We talk to them occasionally on the phone, but we don’t see them,” said Turner. “It used to be that we would have meetings, but now we don’t, so I thought let’s try to get all of us together.”
Twelve of the 19 postmasters that are retiring from the area came out with current and former postal employees and families to celebrate the many years of experience these long time employees have with the postal service. Most of them will be replaced, although with so many of these post offices included on a list of potential closures, it is hard to say how much longer they will remain open. Ary and Krypton were both on the list to be closed and are awaiting the decision of Congress to find out if they will remain open.
While these changes will be difficult for the postmasters that are retiring, it will also be difficult for the regular customers that have gotten used to seeing them. Allen said it was emotional when some of his regulars found out he was retiring.
“People have walked in the office crying because I am leaving,” said Allen.
Since many of the postmasters have been at their respective post offices for so long, they have become a trusted member of the community.
“I have customers that can’t read or write, and I help them with their money orders and in doing that I don’t do that in a way that ever embarrasses them,” said Allen. “I guess you are the bartender the sociologist, psychologist, the newspaper for the community. You kind of tend to know a little bit about everybody.”
Some of these postmasters have already worked their last days and are starting to enjoy their retirement, while others still have a few more to go. But all of them have said they will miss being postmaster and are looking forward to what is next for them.