PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend Post Office on Washington Street is jumping this time of year as thousands of packages, cards and special deliveries are handled every day.
Mary Jane Duff, who has been acting postmaster and supervisor since February, was promoted to postmaster last week. Larry Dekker, who was Port Townsend’s postmaster, was transferred to the Port Hadlock station.
Duff and her 36 employees are up to their elbows in packages and letters these days, with volumes about three times as heavy as at any other time of year.
Duff, who has been with the postal service for 24 years, is no stranger to the North Olympic Peninsula. She has worked in Port Angeles as a letter carrier and clerk, and in Sequim as a clerk.
“I started out as a postmaster relief in a little mountain town, Angeles Oaks near Big Bear in California,” she said.
“I worked 10 hours a week. Then I was hired on as a data conversion operator and keyed address information that machines couldn’t read. Those wonderful bar codes you see on your letters is what I did for four years.”
She also was a city carrier job in Banning, Calif., for 14 years.
In 2010, she sought a transfer to the Port Townsend area to be closer to her parents.
Her recent duties included being postmaster in the Quilcene Post Office with four employees. With her new position in Port Townsend, she’s relinquished that responsibility and the postal service is seeking a replacement.
Duff said Port Townsend has handled 18,000 presorted letters just for city carriers this week.
“On Wednesday, with Fed Ex and UPS, we had 2200 packages,” she said. “Last Monday, we had 3,500 packages. On Thursday, there were 2,604 packages plus an additional 1,000 left from Wednesday because we were not open for business because of President Bush’s funeral.” The funeral of the late President George H.W. Bush was Wednesday.
Port Townsend is also a hub for Amazon.
“On Amazon Sundays we deliver to all of Port Townsend and Port Ludlow,” Duff said. “The packages seem to be getting bigger and heavier. A lot of people are shopping online now.”
She said she’s seen 50-pound bags of dog food come through and big fake Christmas trees, too.
Even though letters still seem to be a good part of the business, she said the postal service is in the parcel business now.
Duff said everything is unique about the Port Townsend Post Office — the building, the customers, the employees.
“One day a couple started playing music and singing a song they wrote about Port Townsend,” she said.”They entertained the customers.
“That kind of stuff just doesn’t happen everywhere. It’s different than a normal post office. People talk and know each other, clerks call you by name.”
And, she said, the office has a great view of Port Townsend Bay and the downtown area that makes waiting in line a bit more palatable than it might have been.
The historic building has a small postal museum with items dating back to the early 1900s. One piece is a beaver hat from assistant postmaster Louie Opstad who served from 1900-1922.
But the building — which was opened in 1893 as a post office, court and customs house — has no handicap access, and it was grandfathered in to continue operating.
“In the past, this was addressed by having a contract office off-site,” she said. “That went away a few years ago.
“That’s one thing I’d like to inquire about,” she said. “After the first of the year, I’d like to see why we couldn’t post a request for a new off-site space. I’d like to see that happen. Everyone would have access to postal products and services that way.”
The building also has office space on the second and third floors with an eclectic mix of artists, writers, engineers, inventors and other commercial endeavors.
Duff said that most people’s involvement with the post office is basically a stamp.
“For $1.15 you can send a letter anywhere in the world,” she said. “And, for 50 cents it can go across the county. But the price is going up to 55 cents on January 27.”
Forever stamps are now worth 50 cents.
She said all first class stamps are forever stamps
“Buy them now. They’ll increase in value.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]