Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, May 28, 2001

New Winsted postmaster sworn in

By Patrice Waldron

A ceremony took place May 17, as Katie Olson was sworn in as the new Winsted postmaster.

Among those in attendance were Olson's family, friends, post office co-workers, former Winsted postmasters, and postmasters from surrounding communities. Mary Trnka, the postmaster in Darwin, was the postmaster in Winsted before Olson took over the position.

Olson, a Mound resident, who has been employed by the United States Postal Service for 22 years, is now serving in her first position as postmaster.

When asked if she felt ready for her new duties as postmaster, "I feel as though I've had 20 years of training, getting ready to come to this job," Olson replied.

Gene Fernstrom, Olson's father, who retired from the post office after 33 years in post office finance, administered Olson's oath.

"I felt like I belonged in the post office. I was born the first day my father started his job in the post office," said Olson.

Across the nation, there are about 30,000 postmasters.

Shelly Manthel, manager, post office operations in Minneapolis also took part in the ceremony.

"There's a lot of work to do, a lot of changes coming. Things will get difficult before they get better," said Manthel.

Olson has held many different jobs since she started with the post office.

Her first job was as a clerk on the graveyard shift.

In order to move up in the postal service, one must be willing to move around, going to where the opportunities are, Olson explained.

The job positions Olson had, from clerk, to supervisor, and now as postmaster, have prepared her for some of the extensive duties she faces. She has worked in Mound, Forest Lake, and Shakopee.

There are many bookkeeping duties for the postmaster. Olson will be in charge of payroll, scheduling employees, settling disputes, and negotiating contracts.

Each group also has its own union, such as the rural carriers, the clerks, and the drivers, so there's quite a bit involved, if a problem arises.

Other postmaster duties include handling supplies, scheduling maintenance, handling customer insurance claims, dealing with audits, which occur monthly in large post offices.

A post office is only allowed to keep a certain number of stamps on hand. If it has too many in the safe, the stamps may have to be shipped to a facility which stores the stamps, and that involves a lot of paper work.

When new stamps are issued, such as when the rates change, some of the stamps, if still bundled and wrapped in plastic, will have to be shipped out to be destroyed.

The accounts must always balance.

There are many rules the consumer may not even be aware of, which the postmaster must follow.

As part of quality control, the postal service will periodically send out "mystery shoppers" who pretend to be post office customers, but who are actually hired to make note of whether the post office has the correct postal posters hanging, how courteous the clerks are, if the clerks ask if the customers would like to use a credit card for a purchase, and other small details.

One post office campaign under way is called, "Every piece, every day."

This campaign is the post office pledge to have every piece of mail move toward its destination every day.

Maintaining this pledge falls on the shoulders of the postmaster. Sometimes, in the process of sorting the mail, a container of mail may be missed, and a call may come from Watertown or Waconia. It is the job of the postmaster to drive to that location and pick up the tray of mail.

The mail must go on its way, that day.

The post office also has methods to check and see if the mail in the outside delivery mailbox is picked up from the box on time, and not before.

Olson's job as postmaster depends on her performing all of these new duties and many more.

"I hope I do the job proud. Winsted is a nice town," said Olson.

Olson and her two sons, Zachary, age 13 years, and Tyler, age 10 years, still live in Mound, where her last job as a supervisor was. They will move to Winsted as soon as the house in Mound sells.

She replaces Dale Gatz of Winsted, who is now postmaster in Delano.


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