New Medford postmaster rallies mail carriers
Around lunchtime inside the U.S. Post Office plant off Sage Road in Medford, vertical shelves to organize mail are bare; the giant purple machine (affectionately known as “Barney”) that sorts mail is sleeping; and the iconic white USPS vehicles have all left for delivery.
But before long, the facility is humming with life — all under the direction of Medford’s new postmaster, Casey Kamps.
“My carriers give 110% most days, and I have to ask for 110% almost every day. It’s a hard job,” he said Tuesday on the plant floor, with hardly any employees around. “It’s essentially Groundhog Day — our job is to get the mail out of here, get it delivered, come back here; and we do it every day. ”
Kamps, who became postmaster Sept. 10, spoke extensively with the Mail Tribune about how his office and customer service have been impacted over the past few years, given the pandemic and uncertainty nationwide about the Postal Service’s future. Kamps also talked about the importance of the postmaster position and how he wants to turn it from a “misnomer” into something more widely appreciated by the valley community.
His comments come after Postmaster General and Postal Service CEO Louis DeJoy issued a video message in September to workers in which he declared, “we are a better organization in a better financial position than we were just one year ago. And we have achieved this exciting momentum during the pandemic.”
DeJoy added that, with implementation of the Delivering for America plan, the Postal Service will “erase a projected 10-year, $160 billion loss and avoid a government bailout.”
A steward of the Delivering for America plan, Kamps said he cannot speak about Postal Service decisions nationally, only locally.
“I can tell you for us, we are keeping people employed; there’s a lot of work going on,” Kamps said. “It seems like my plant is getting the mail to me sooner, so there have definitely been more flow issues corrected at the local level, so I can get my people started earlier.”
DeJoy’s plan could be helpful when the amount of mail parcels is increasing.
“(DeJoy is) changing the infrastructure; he’s getting us new technologies to be able to cope with that,” Kamps said, referring to parcel volume. “Because, essentially, that’s probably where the post office is going to be moving to — is more parcels. At least that’s what it feels like to me.”
He assured customers that despite some negative headlines about the Postal Service, Medford and valley customers will get their mail.
“If we get it, it’s going to go out,” Kamps said.
When the pandemic struck, the Medford Post Office went from seeing 3,000 parcels a day to 17,000, the postmaster said. The increase led to carrier “burnout.” With fewer employees, Kamps had to increase the remaining carriers’ workload to six days a week.
“I don’t like to have to do that, but when we’re short-staffed, they have to work,” Kamps said. “For the last few months, I only have a few working six days a week.”
Kamps admits he would like at least 10 more carriers so more employees could work the standard five-day shift instead of six.
Despite the turnover rate, some carriers “really find the job satisfying,” according to Kamps.
“They have a lot (of mail to carry). They’re multitasking at all times — driving down the road, worrying about the next parcel; it’s really hard,” he said.
Some mail carriers get the occasional threat while out delivering mail. But since the pandemic, more people have come to appreciate them, Kamps said.
“We delivered when everyone else couldn’t go out,” he said. “Once you work here, the entire town is your customer.”
A “big day” for the Medford plant brings 1 million pieces of mail. Currently, that number hovers around 300,000 — reasonable for this time of year, according to Kamps. When the Mail Tribune toured the plant Tuesday, around 62,000 pieces of mail had been delivered from the facility.
Postal Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., issued a statement Friday specifying that delivery time nationwide averages 2.5 days. Asked about whether mail is getting delivered on time locally, Kamps reiterated his earlier point: “We’ve been lucky.”
“There are other places I’ve heard of that are actually having delivery issues,” Kamps said, noting the Medford district is not on an internal report for deliveries.
The Medford postmaster is optimistic about his office, given the improvements in automated technology. A few machines didn’t even exist at the Sage Road facility two years ago.
“That can do the work of 10 people,” Kamps said. “More items like that help us handle the higher flow of parcels.”
As postmaster, Kamps oversees service in Medford, Central Point and White City — cities that make his district (known as “Medford”) the fourth largest in Oregon, Idaho and Montana, he noted. Kamps has 175 employees.
Kamps equates his job to one of a chief executive officer rather than a postmaster; those duties are more in line with the managers of the individual city post offices.
“What most people think of a postmaster, that’s what my managers do,” Kamps said. “My job is to sit above all of that and make sure everything is being done correctly.”
The top dog role is perhaps fitting for Kamps, who had a career on a nuclear submarine and as a cinema engineer in Hollywood before joining the post office ranks. He gleefully points to two letters from the agency rejecting him from the position before it became available a third time last year, when the previous postmaster departed for the East Coast.
“I have to drive performance. We’ve become kind a performance industry,” Kamps said. “The postmaster used to be more of a service industry.”
Now, he hopes to provide more outreach to the community. He’s spoken with the city of Medford and the Chamber of Medford & Jackson County.
“(I want to be) more a part of the community instead of just in the community,” Kamps said.
Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.