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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Monett postmaster retires, successor is named

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Monett postmaster Mike Williams, who retires this week, showed his successor, Mary Hopkins, some of the automated equipment used to serve customers at the service window daily. Hopkins said she particularly likes to classic look of Monett's post office. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
For the first time in nearly 20 years, Monett will have a new postmaster on Aug. 1. Mike Williams, who started his duties in February 1993, retired on July 31. His successor is Mary Hopkins.

Williams has seen considerable change in postal operations over his tenure during the rise of the Internet. Post office operations in Monett have remained largely stable. Monett had 11 routes when Williams started, a number that shrank and grew again to 10, including a short route lasting about four hours a day.

"We had about 25 carriers when I first came here," Williams said. "Now we have 21, and I've hired 15 of them. I'll miss the customers and the employees the most. They're fantastic."

Automation has brought the most significant changes to the way the post office runs. Williams said clerks scan 200 parcels a day and can track their location. Many of the calls they receive are inquiries about the location of mailed items which was not available 20 years ago.

Letters are sorted and stacked in trays ready for delivery by route carriers, who use to sort pieces by hand.

"Federal Express and UPS bring mail to our back door for us to deliver," Williams said. "We've gone from being competitors to partners."

The most difficult decisions Williams made over the years were on promoting supervisors. Williams said his choices have paid off, with nine of his choices going on to becoming postmasters themselves.

"They've made me feel like a proud dad," Williams said.

No major issues hang over the Monett Post Office. Williams said the Monett staff is self-sufficient and not in danger of any reductions. In fact, in two weeks the carriers from Pierce City will be transferring to Monett. Their arrival will boost the staff to around 29, including carriers who serve Stotts City.

Hopkins said she has a great deal to learn in a short time as she prepares to run the Monett Post Office. Her first day was on Monday. Her first impressions have been positive.

"Monett is a very close-knit community," Hopkins said. "People are extremely friendly and helpful. The employees have worked wonderfully for Mike. It will be a real joy to work here."

The first job to receive Hopkins' focus is learning the area. She said the arrival of the Pierce City carriers, representing three more routes, will create space challenges. The carriers will retain their routes but adjust their schedules as they begin deliveries closer to Monett first.

Hopkins has held most postal positions in the delivery end of the system. She began her career as a rural carrier in Yuma, Ariz. She advanced to a city carrier and then a supervisor. When she moved to Missouri 12 years ago, Hopkins and her husband moved to Joplin, where she became a station manager.

The May 22, 2011 tornado resulted in consolidation of the Joplin postal stations into the downtown office. Hopkins then ran the Nevada post office for nine months until a new postmaster was named, repeated the duty for about eight months in Lamar and spent the last six months as a station manager in Springfield.

"Monett is an ethnically diverse community," Hopkins said. "I'm not unfamiliar with that, coming from Arizona. It makes me feel at home."

Working in a historic post office, which opened two weeks before Monett's 50th birthday celebration in 1937, is also a treat for Hopkins. It's a contrast to Arizona, whose cities are mostly newer buildings.

"It's always nice to go into historic buildings, even though they have a lot of maintenance," Hopkins said. "It excites me to see a lobby and see the way the windows open, like an old bank. It's very comforting to think there's a lot of history in this office. I think I'll be very comfortable here."

Business challenges are different today, and Hopkins sees her mission tied to today's market.

"We're now more customer oriented," Hopkins said. "We don't have the market now. As the back burner of sending bills and correspondence, we need to know what the post office can do to serve its customers better and help businesses grow."

A big part of Hopkins' job vision is educating the public and communicating about products the Postal Service offers over the Internet. For example, customers can order greeting cards in advance that will be mailed at a pre-set date, complete with messages and a signature.

"There's nothing more satisfying to the elderly or children than to have something come in the mail," Hopkins said. "My grandchildren's eyes light up when they get mail. We must be able to relate to the community and show what the Post Office can do."

Once Hopkins has settled in, she said she can seriously think about selling her house and moving to Monett. Williams, who has a daughter attending Monett High School now and two who have graduated, also has a house in Seligman, where his wife, Suzanne, is the local postmaster. He stays at that home two or three nights a week.

"Now I'll have the time to remodel the house and do it right," Williams said. "I'll probably be bored at some point, but I'll be busy for a year."

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