FL Post Office will stay busy during Christmas rush
She’s taking it all in stride. That’s how Forest Lake Postmaster Julianne Vance is dealing with the busy holiday mailing season.
And busy it is. During the peak Christmas mailing season, the office will handle more than 40,000 letters and 6,000 flat packages a day. The local post office also gets in on the growing parcel delivery business with contracts to cover the final mile of ground delivery for a large number of UPS and FedEx packages.
For Vance, a 16-year U.S. Postal Service employee, December is just another month. But it does keep her staff of 28 employees on the go.
The Forest Lake Post Office delivers mail to customers on 15 routes – five in the city proper and 10 in areas classified as rural. Each day mail goes out to more than 10,200 residential and business customers and box-holders at the office.
Vance said the mail volume in the holiday season today is comparable to other months of the year due to a change in tradition.
“People just aren’t mailing as many cards as they once did,” she said.
But December’s efforts are not without obstacles. The cold and snow this month have caused their share of headaches.
“Our biggest challenge is the snow,” Vance said. “People need to clean out around their mailboxes and steps.”
That applies to customers on rural and city routes, she said. Although only several walking routes for letter carriers remain in Forest Lake, carriers appreciate sidewalks that are clear of snow and treated with salt for the ice, if possible, Vance said.
Making sure the mail gets delivered remains the top goal for all mail carriers, Vance said, no matter the cold or the snow.
“We still go out,” she said. “We will make every attempt to deliver the mail.”
A big job
Delivering the mail at Christmas is a huge task, and the local numbers are just a small piece of the pie.
In the Twin Cities, Monday, Dec. 16, is labeled the peak mailing day for the season. The U.S. Postal Service was on task and prepared to handle 4.3 million pieces of mail Monday in the Twin Cities. Nationwide, the Postal Service was ready to handle more than 600 million pieces of mail on Dec. 16.
According to past Christmas season mailing statistics, Vance said Dec. 18 is the busiest delivery day for letters and cards, and Dec. 19 is on average the busiest delivery day for holiday packages.
Nationally, Vance said, the Postal Service will handle an estimated 14.7 billion cards between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. On average, the Postal Service will process an estimated 545 million pieces of mail every day during the holiday season, she added.
Although card volume may be declining, it is a different story with packages. Vance said the Postal Service is projecting a 12 percent increase in package delivery in 2013 over 2012. Some 420 million packages will be delivered this holiday season, she said.
“Nobody, expect maybe Santa, delivers the holidays like the U.S. Postal Service, and we have a 238-year track record to prove it,” Vance said.
Give Vance one Christmas wish and it would be to encourage area residents to clear enough snow from curbside boxes – at least 6 feet on both sides of the mailbox – to enable the carrier to deliver the mail safely without having to back up the delivery vehicle.
She also encourages home and business owners to keep sidewalks cleared of snow and ice and make sure steps and overhangs do not pose a risk to letter carriers.
“The surest cure for an injury is to not have it occur in the first place,” Vance said. “Please give your letter carrier the best gift of all – safety.”
A chosen career
Vance can certainly be considered a career employee with the U.S. Postal Service. The Forest Lake resident has spent nine of her 16 years at the Forest Lake office. She has served as postmaster for the past four years.
The Forest Lake area has long been part of her life. She attended elementary school in Forest Lake before moving to St. Francis where she earned her high school diploma.
The Postal Service is in her blood. Vance comes from a long line of Postal Service employees, including her parents. Her mother was postmaster at Brook Park before moving to a position in the Twin Cities.
Vance has held a variety of duties. Prior to receiving her permanent assignment in Forest Lake, Vance worked as the officer-in-charge at post offices in Cedar, Circle Pines, Lake Elmo, Shafer and St. Croix Falls, Wis.
She was named a supervisor at the Forest Lake office before being promoted to postmaster. She has also logged service time at the St. Paul plant and gained counter experience at the Eagan Post Office prior to accepting her transfer to Forest Lake nine years ago.