Anderson puts the stamp on her postal career

LAUREL — Jan Anderson, Postmaster at the Laurel Post Office, is set to retire on May 29.

She has over 24 years with the USPS, and has been the Laurel Postmaster since 2005, after replacing another long-time Laurel Postmaster — Betty Kavanaugh.

Anderson began her career with the Postal Service in Wayne as a city carrier in April 1996. She was the substitute for all city routes, most of which entailed walking eight-nine miles a day. She said it was lucky she started in April and had time to learn the routes before the winter weather hit, making everything much harder.

In the fall of 1998, she applied for and was hired as a clerk at the Laurel Post Office under Kavanaugh.

“I already knew who Betty was, but I had no idea the impact she would have on my career,” Anderson said.

Beginning in 1999, the Post Offices were beginning to transition from manual procedures to automated, computerized retail operations.

Anderson served on the team that would install the Point of Service computer systems in all the large offices, Level 15 and above.

“We would go into an office, stage all of the new equipment including scales, keyboards, hard drives, computer screens, etc., and when the office would close for the day, we would transfer all of the office details, take the old equipment out, and be ready to open the next morning. I really enjoyed the team I worked with, and the chance to meet so many wonderful area employees.”

She said Kavanaugh also signed her up to be a Retail Coach, teaching area clerks to use the new POS equipment.

In March 2001, Anderson went to serve as the Officer in Charge at Dakota City, a detail which lasted nine months.

“I remember Tom calling me one day to see if I would be heading home from work soon, as the weather looked pretty bad to the east. It was raining cats and dogs as I went through Jackson, and 30 minutes later the tornado hit. That was Aug. 17, 2001,” she said. “Local residents were still picking up the pieces of that destructive tornado, when we heard of another devastating event. A plane had hit one of the Twin Towers in New York City. We soon realized that our nation was under attack.”

Anderson said they set up a TV on the workroom floor and watched in disbelief the news coverage of the events. It was hard for any of them to concentrate on work for days.

“Sadly, that day changed business as usual for the Postal Service too … as terroristic attacks began to include pipe bombs in mailboxes and ‘white powdery substances’ in letters.”

On Memorial Day Weekend in 2004, the Postmaster of Plainview was killed in an accident, which also took the life of her husband. When asked if she knew of anyone who could go to Plainview during this emergency, Kavanaugh said she would have someone there by noon. Anderson was asked to become Officer in Charge there, a detail that lasted five months.

“That was such a tough assignment, because the Postmaster was such a beloved member of the community, and so greatly missed. Everyone in the office was in mourning, but they were also so professional and helpful to me. It was a great crew, and we knew we had to keep the office running.”

Anderson became the Postmaster in Laurel Feb. 5, 2005. There have been many changes over the years, as there is in any business.

One of the biggest changes began in 2012 with PostPlan, when smaller offices were changed from an eight-hour day down to a 2, 4, or 6 hour-day, depending on their mail volume and revenue. Since then, Laurel has become the Administrative Post Office for three Remotely Managed Post Offices, including Belden, Concord and Dixon. Having four offices instead of one has at times been challenging, especially keeping them all staffed six days a week.

Anderson said she had a longtime vision for a mural depicting the Postal Service, the company where she spent her career.

In 2016, with the help of her sister, Rae Brown Heineman, she began the large scale project. They used ladders and scaffolding and an overhead projector to create the mural on the east side of the office building. With help from many other employees and friends they painted a version of the Pony Express, with most of the work done at night. “I love large murals and hope this one will last for many years.”

Anderson, a Wakefield native, is the daughter of the late Floyd and Evelyn Johnson. She is a graduate of Wakefield High School, and attended Wayne State College, earning a business degree. She and her husband, Tom, have a son. Casey, and his wife, Kristi, live in Wayne. They are the proud grandparents of Lilly Grace, now 3 years old.

They make their home on the Missouri River near Wynot. She looks forward to boating and fishing, spending time outdoors at their home. She also plans to continue to volunteer with the Wynot Rescue Squad as an EMT, travel to see friends they have met over the years, and spend part of the winter in South Padre Island, Texas.

“But the one thing I look forward to the most is spending time with Lilly, and watching her grow,” she said.

“Retiring will be bittersweet. The best part of the job for me is helping customers ... finding the right box, mailing their greeting cards, Christmas time when we deliver so much more than bills and ads. I love to see the look on a customer’s face when you get to hand them a package they were not expecting from a friend or family member, it brings such joy,” she said. “You work all these years to get to the end and retire, but I absolutely love the people I work with, so I know I will miss seeing them every day.”

With the curent Covid-19 rules, no big gathering is planned. But Anderson said if you are downtown May 27, she would love to see people to say goodbye, and there just might be a cookie or donut waiting.

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