Mail delivery is usually a very ordinary thing. Mostly anyone during the week knows when the mailman has stopped at his or her house.
It is a job that has been around since Bejamin Franklin was named postmaster general in 1775. However, in recent years the U.S. Postal Service has come under fire with large budget deficits because of the decrease in first-class mail. In fact, last month Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe told a House committee the Postal Service continues to face systemic financial challenges.
“We cannot pretend these marketplace changes aren’t happening or that they don’t require us to make fundamental changes to our business model. We need comprehensive reform now,” Donahoe testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on July 17.
In Gainesville, the location of the main post office is a point of contention as city officials seek to ease traffic problems in the downtown area. However, no feasible plan has developed to adequately suit the post office or elected officials.
And while debate goes back and forth on the aging postal service and its location in Gainesville, one element remains the same: the mail carriers who serve Hall County.
To find out exactly who gets the mail out, The Times observed the daily activities of a mail carrier.
The U.S. Postal Service in Gainesville has several mail sorters and delivery personnel behind the small front desk and post office boxes visitors see. The area is almost twice the size of the front of the post office and is where all the behind-the-scenes work is done. It takes more than some might think to simply deliver the mail.
Gary Dover, a 32-year veteran mail carrier in Gainesville, has his job down to a science.
Dover, like most mail delivery employees, arrives at 9 a.m. to sort mail. His route includes not only residences but many businesses, so the items he delivers can vary.
“Bigger or bulkier mail packages are sorted first, then smaller packages and envelopes are added to the mail load,” Dover said, making the sorting process last about two hours. “(It) depends on how much mail volume they have and how many people they’ve got to work.”
For Dover, the most enjoyable part of his job is talking to familiar people.
“The best thing is interaction with customers out on the route,” he said, adding he has seen some customers have children and grandchildren.
Certain customers also look forward to Dover’s arrival at their door or post office box. For instance, Dover delivers mail to The Holbrook, an active adult living community in Gainesville. Upon arrival inside the establishment, he is greeted by the staff and immediately recognized by residents. Some even give him a last-minute letter to deliver.
Dover’s route even includes mail for people who ship mail themselves. The Shipping Depot in Gainesville counts on him to give it its customers’ mail every day.
“(I deliver) all the mail they sort out for post office boxes that they sell. So I have a tub of mail. ... I’ll bring it here in the morning and someone else in the afternoon picks up their mail to take back to the post office for sorting,” Dover said.
The familiarity he has acquired with the route throughout the years, he said, allows him to do the job quickly and effortlessly. The fast-paced job requires a good deal of systematic thinking, but as far as Dover is concerned, it’s not a very hard job at all.
“It’s not that difficult,” he said.
But Dover admitted over time and especially lately, one has to keep up with an evolving process like mail delivery.
“It’s constantly changing right now,” he said. “We kind of never know from day to day what the workload’s going to be, but it’s still a good job.”
Dover also has fun on the job with his co-workers. In fact, his proficiency on the job has earned him the name “Super D.” A co-worker said this is because he is like the “Superman” of the mailroom.
“Well, you can have a pretty good time working in here with the coworkers. Some of us have been here for a long time,” Dover said.
However, it is clear that not just anyone could do this job. Mail delivery goes far beyond the mailbox.