Post office worker retires

After 21 years at Post Office, Kim Soetaert is retiring.

A coworker asked Kim Soetaert whether $1,000 would get her to wait after Christmas to retire.

Soetaert said no immediately.

So her coworker raised it to $5,000. Still no. For $100,000, Soetaert thought a little bit, but she was still determined.

It wouldn’t be worth the stress postal employees go through every holiday season, she said.

Soetaert spent 21 years working for the Oregon Post Office and said she had done just about every job except be a city carrier before retiring Saturday, Nov. 30.

Though Soetaert started as a carrier, she became a clerk less than a year later and said she was glad to have worked mostly at the office, since doing the routes can be physically demanding.

She also worked as the officer in charge in Brooklyn for nine months after the postmaster there retired and Soetart’s position in Oregon was eliminated. Eventually retirements at the Oregon office led to her being recalled back.

Recently, most of her time has been as a window clerk, interacting with customers. During the polar vortex in January no mail was delivered, but she still went in.

Her primary goal there was to get everyone through the line, but she said she will miss talking to customers during the times there wasn’t a line. There are some customers she got used to seeing regularly.

“There are definitely some customers I’m gonna miss, ‘cause I’ve known them for 20 some years,” she said. “The joking around that you do and everything is not totally business, but you have the same people coming in every other day or so to mail their eBay stuff.”

What she won’t miss, she said, are the physical demands of the work. Even as a clerk, sorting the mail had her going all over the building.

There was also confusion that could come with changes to routes. Suddenly addresses that had gone in one person’s satchel for years went to someone else.

Along with these smaller changes, Soetaert noticed an overall decline in the number of magazines and letters sent while packages went up.

“Now it’s more like … you’ve got a handful of letters but you might have 10 parcels that you have to either carry with you or you drive from house to house like a UPS driver,” she joked.

Even though she is no longer behind the scenes, Soetaert still finds joy in mail.

“Especially when you’re a little kid there’s nothing more fun than going and opening that mailbox and there’s a letter for you or a card or something like that,” she said. “To me that’s kind of gotten lost, but I’m a big card mailer. And not to keep my job going, I’ve always been a big card mailer.”

Soetaert is now working on fixing up her house to sell to pursue full time RVing. She just has five states to visit to have gone to all 50 – Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Delaware and Rhode Island.

As excited as she is to travel, she said family is the only thing that might hold her back. She’s stayed involved in her grandnieces’ and grandnephews’ lives and would miss that as she traveled.

She feels satisfied with her career, but is also glad to have time for other things now, like decorating for Christmas.

“You don’t have time to get your own home ready for Christmas (if you work at the post office) ... I like coming home and seeing the lights,” she said.