Archive for Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Postmaster and commander

Wilson retires after 10 years as Baldwin postmaster

December 30, 2003

When Sarah Wilson first became postmaster in Baldwin, she was given a tongue lashing by a post office customer for not knowing the customer's name.

Now, 10 years later, Wilson has no problem remembering the names of many of the people in town, as well as their mail route or box numbers. She can also probably tell you a little bit about their families or where they work or what they like to do on the weekends.

"I like the people," she said. "I like the interaction with people."

It's her interaction that Kathy Johnston is going to miss on her regular trips to the post office now that Wilson has retired as Baldwin's postmaster.

"She was just such a friendly face," said Johnston, librarian at Baldwin City Public Library. "She made it so you wanted to go to the post office."

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Wilson's official last day as postmaster in Baldwin is Friday, but she has not been working at the post office since Dec. 11 when she left for foot surgery.

Her job as postmaster wasn't always easy, she said, but an opportunity for which she is grateful.

"The postal service has always been good to me," she said.

Wilson became postmaster in Baldwin in 1993, taking over for longtime postmaster Marvin Jardon. But it was actually Jardon who gave Wilson her start with the postal service several years earlier in 1979.

After teaching school a few years in western Kansas and then Williamsburg, Wilson quit working to raise a family. When she re-entered the work force, she took the necessary tests in an attempt to become a postal service employee.

Wilson, who lived close to the Baldwin post office at the time, said she was hired after a snowstorm left postal employees unable to come to work.

"Marvin hired me so I could walk down the street in inclement weather," she said laughing. "I can thank Marvin Jardon for my job."

After a short time in Baldwin, Wilson transferred to the Lawrence post office where she later became an accounting technician, then window supervisor.

She later transferred to the Olathe post office before she became postmaster in Wellsville.

In 1993 Wilson moved back to the post office where she first began her postal career when she accepted the postmaster position and became one of only five women postmasters in the eastern half of Kansas.

"It was kind of a nice accomplishment for me," she said.

There have been a number of changes in the postal service since Wilson began her career 25 years ago, including the increase in the use of machines.

"It was a whole different ball game then," she said. "We used to sort every piece of mail by hand. Now about 70 percent of the letters come in already sorted.

"Machines have taken over where people were."

Her duties as postmaster changed daily, she said, which kept the job interesting.

"There's always something going on," she said. "In fact, there's enough work there you never totally get caught up on."

While there were some aspects of her job that proved more difficult than others, she said, working with the public was one of the hardest.

"The most challenging part was the customer service part and trying to keep them happy," she said.

Though there were difficult customers, she said, the customer service aspect was a part of her job she enjoyed.

Johnston said that was evident by how Wilson treated her customers.

"She always had something to say to everybody, and a friendly smile," she said. "I thought she just went out of her way to be helpful."

She wouldn't have been successful in her job, she said, without the help of her coworkers.

"I had a really good staff here at Baldwin that were dedicated to their jobs," she said.

Wilson, who once was president of the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, served on the Baldwin Board of Education and belonged to Rotary and the Hestia clubs, said she doesn't have too many plans for retirement other than quilting and traveling.

"I want to go somewhere and not really have a destination in mind and be able to stop where ever I want to," she said.

Though she's looking forward to retirement, Wilson said she's thankful to have been Baldwin's postmaster.

"It's just been a great opportunity for me," she said. "I couldn't have asked for anything better."

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