Tom Schultz has enjoyed the ride, but is ready to retire.
The longtime mailman with the U.S. Postal Service will make his final delivery Friday, ending a career that has spanned 34 years and seven months. He’s carried the same mail along Route 4 for 33 years, which includes both city and county residences.
Schultz has been considering retirement for the past few years but opted for the right timing.
“I’ve been thinking about this for several years but couldn’t pull the trigger, but now, the time is right,” he said. “Because of my knees, the job has become more than I can handle and give good service. It takes me longer to deliver mail.”
Schultz began working for the postal service two weeks after his son AJ Schultz was born and has been delivering mail ever since.
“It has gone by fast, and for the most part, 99 percent of it has been all good,” Schultz said. “I’ve enjoyed it very, very much. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously and developed a lot of relationships.”
His route includes approximately 800 mailboxes, including 430 within the city limits and has maintained the same philosophy during his career. A “post office on wheels” Schultz simply delivers mail until no piece is left behind and does whatever it takes to ensure proper delivery to city and rural residents. He begins his shift at 7:30 a.m. and ends most days at 6 p.m.
It’s the same routine every day.
“A lot of people don’t understand what we do,” he said. “When I stop at Moore’s Grocery Store for lunch, people ask, ‘how long have you been driving around all day?’ A lot of people think when I go to the post office, I pick up my mail, put it in my vehicle and deliver it. I’m the one who has to sort through all of that and put it in its proper order. I have a case and each house has its own one-inch slot for their mail. I found a system that has worked for me over the years.”
Schultz said the biggest task is staying focused without being distracted.
“Since we’re driving vehicles on the road, the important thing is to keep your mind on what you’re doing,” he said. “If you start day dreaming, you could go through a stop sign, you could miss a couple of mailboxes … you just have to keep your mind on what you’re doing. If your phone rings, you pull over or what for later. Safety is a big importance for the postal service.”
Although opening and closing a mailbox is routine for Schultz, there have been a few surprises along the way.
“I’ve had firecrackers put in mailboxes and I opened up a mailbox one day and there was a snake inside,” he said. “I also had a geatleman who was a solider and we had talked about being in Vietnam and one day he put in a booby trap in the mailbox that I had to undo and put the mail in. I also was bitten by a dog once.”
He added that “people feel relaxed the mailman.”
”I’ve had people answer the door with clothes on and some answer the door with some clothes on,” he said. “I’ve had people that know I like soup beans and every time she made soup beans, she left a note in the mail box and I got a bowl of beans for lunch. I had a lady that was frying chicken for her husband and she saw me come up the road and when I came back down, she was standing there with a very hot piece of fried chicken for the mailman. People have been very, very nice over the years. I’ve gotten cards, letters, Christmas presents and people have been just wonderful.
“I’ve done it long enough to where the kids that I knew 33 years ago, have their own children now. All the people on my route are special to me. For the last 33 years, that has been my extended family.”
Since his career began, Schulz said the biggest change has involved a shift from providing a service to a more business-like approach by the postal service in Washington.
“It’s a service,” he said. “We deal with the public and that’s all we have to offer. If we don’t give good service, especially for packages, they can go to UPS, FedEx and Amazon. Amazon has been our savor, but it also has been a little bit of a burden. Because, we’re carrying a lot of packages.”
Now, he’s looking forward to easing his load, traveling and spending more time with family and finishing the “honey-to-do” list.
“It’s been a heck of a ride,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it. “