Chandler experiencing big changes at post office
CHANDLER -- Twenty-five years ago, when Loren Gens started working with the U.S. Postal Service, there weren't any scanners or bar codes to confirm package delivery.
"Everything was done through the mail," Gens said. "All the reports and spreadsheets were done the long way."
After first working as a city carrier in Worthington, Gens became the postmaster in Round Lake and then moved to the Chandler postmaster post five years ago. On Thursday, Gens officially retired and hung up his postal bag for good.
"If it wasn't for the computer system constantly changing, I'd still be doing it, but about the time you figure it out, they change it again," Gens said with a laugh.
Throughout his years with the USPS, Gens has enjoyed working with the employees and customers at the post office.
"I've always had a good group of people to work with who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the mail delivered and get the customers served," he said.
As Gens retires from his position, the Chandler office will reduce its regular hours from eight to four as part of a larger effort to reduce postal service costs.
All the Level 18 offices and above -- such as Luverne, Worthington, Tracy, Slayton and Pipestone -- will stay at 8 hours. All other offices will experience reductions, Gens said, by September 2014, unless the postmaster retires before then. In that case, the change of hours will take place at the postmaster's retirement.
Letters will be sent out to local communities as office hours are changed to notify the public and to allow for opinions about what the new, reduced hours would be.
Some offices are doing 7 to 11:30 a.m. or 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but it really depends on the town, Gens said.
Another option is adding "volunteer post offices" to smaller communities by finding a local business willing to sell flat-rate boxes, envelopes and stamps.
While "they won't do any money orders or fancy stuff," Gens said, volunteer post offices would give community members more flexibility with the reduced hours.
Other options for smaller offices include closing the office completely or adding the smaller communities to the rural route system of a larger city.
"Most people want to keep the post office open and realize that we're in financial difficulties," Gens said. "Most would rather we cut our hours than close the office altogether."
In Chandler, Joyce Stoel, who has worked with the postal service for more than 27 years, will become the PMR (postmaster relief) and manage the office. Stoel will be the only one working there and won't have anyone to act as relief if she needs a day off, Gens said.
"She is thinking she should be able to work with Leota to get relief help," he added.
Despite the low staff numbers, Gens seemed confident the postal staff will continue to go the extra mile to make sure the mail gets delivered.
"You just do what you have to do to get it done," he said.
Gens remembers one winter when a carrier went in the ditch delivering a route right before Christmas.
"He called in after he went in the ditch and said, 'I quit!' So I sent my son out to pull him out and then delivered the rest of the route myself," he said.
Gens plans to use his retirement by spending more time pursuing his interests and hobbies.
"I have an interest in farming and will be working (on my son's farm), driving tractor and attending more livestock sales," he said.
A local farmer has already asked Gens to help in the field this spring. Gens suspects as more people know he's retired, more people will be calling him to ask him to help with things.
"I already told my son I'd be out helping with chores and things like that. I'll find things to keep me busy," he said.
After 25 years, Gens is grateful for the support he's received over the years. He also hopes people will continue to support the post offices in the area.
"I'd like to thank all the customers and ask them to keep supporting the post office because we need their support," he said.
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.