Worthington postmaster Hokeness set to retire
WORTHINGTON — After 24 years with the U.S. Postal Service, Lynel Hokeness will retire on Friday. She has served as Worthington’s postmaster for the past three years.
A reception honoring Hokeness is planned on Friday, with cookies and punch served from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Worthington Post Office lobby.
Hokeness, of rural Rushmore, began her career with the federal government in 1985, when she was hired by the Farm Service Agency (at that time it was the ASCS office) in Worthington.
By February 1990, she had accepted a letter carrier position with the Worthington Post Office. Shortly thereafter, she became a clerk.
“I started in February, and we walked in snow up to our knees,” she recalled, welcoming the switch to a job indoors.
Within five years, Hokeness was promoted to a supervisory role in customer services, which she maintained until being selected as Worthington’s Postmaster in July 2011.
Through the years, she also filled officer-in-charge roles at the Iona, Slayton and Worthington post offices.
“When I first started at the post office, we sorted every piece of mail manually,” Hokeness said.
Today, 85 to 90 percent of the letters are sorted by machines into carrier walk sequence.
The automation has led to a reduction of both staff and delivery routes in the community, she said, adding that the Worthington Post Office has 20 employees today.
Hokeness has seen numerous co-workers retire in recent years. Now that it’s her turn, she said the time went by quickly.
“I didn’t realize how fast the day would come that I’d also be eligible for retirement,” she said, adding that she will miss co-workers who make up her “postal family.”
“I always thought I would work for 30 years, and the postal service gave an early-out option,” she added. “I was eligible, and I decided to go ahead and take advantage of it. They get some people that are close to retirement and let them retire to get those in the post office looking to advance (a better position). It eliminates some positions.”
Hokeness pursued a career with the U.S.P.S. because of the pay and benefits provided by a government job.
“The hours weren’t good at that time — I started at 3 o’clock in the morning — but it felt like a good fit for me,” she said.
With the variety of roles she’s had with the U.S.P.S., Hokeness liked the supervisory role the best.
“It was a challenge to be able to do all of the different positions and learn,” she added.
Hokeness said she was fortunate to have great employees working alongside her. Through all of the weather elements, she said the carriers never complain.
This winter, with so many travel issues, Hokeness said the mail doesn’t always arrive on time, but staff does what it can to get the mail delivered.
Now, just a couple of days from retirement, Hokeness won’t have to worry about getting the mail out on time. She looks forward to helping her farming and trucking husband, Dean, when needed, and plans to spend more time doing yardwork. The couple has one daughter, Starr (husband Paul) and one granddaughter, Brilyn, in Sioux Falls, S.D., whom she looks forward to spending more time with.
“The freedom to do whatever each day brings is exciting,” she added.
Until a new postmaster is hired for the Worthington office, Luverne Postmaster Chris Kemper will serve as the officer in charge.