Deborah Kinsey graduated from Morris Brown College in 1983 with a teaching degree.
When she surveyed the job market, she discovered teachers didn't make that much. Postal workers, on the other hand, made a pretty decent living.
"I think the starting salary for an elementary teacher was $18,000, and it was like $28,000 with the postal office. I thought, ‘Oh, I'm going for the money.' I was in my 20s and I was going where the money was," Kinsey said while sitting in her new office Friday.
Kinsey is Covington's newest postmaster and got the job earlier this year after working her way up through the ranks for the past three decades.
She actually got her start just down the interstate, as her first job was as a city letter carrier in Conyers.
She may have started out looking for a solid paycheck, but she found a satisfying career.
"Once I got to delivering mail, I felt the need that I'm going to be servicing customers, putting mail in the box, delivering all this important mail and it was just an enjoyment," Kinsey. "I'm still passionate about it. Just the feel of putting something in somebody's box, it could be a letter their grandma sent them or important correspondence from a business."
Post office distribution centers are bustling places with mail carts being pushed to and fro and letters and packages being filed in the proper slot for each resident. The carriers have a bond with their fellows, particularly the ones who serve the same areas. The carriers from Covington have their own row, same as the carrierfor Oxford and the ones for the rural parts of the county.
Kinsey oversees it all, 33,368 active addresses to make deliveries to in all. This past Friday, the post office had 5,086 letters, 7,082 "flats," such as magazines or larger envelopes and 3,233 packages pass through its doors. And that's a "light day," Kinsey said, noting that Monday sees the heaviest workloads.
In the years that followed her first job, Kinsey would try her hand at pretty much every aspect of the business. Next up was retail clerk. Most people would come in and ask for a simple stamp, but their visit gave Kinsey a chance to show the depth of services the post office offered.
"Certified mail, overnight delivery, passports, money orders. At that time when I was coming up, you could register to vote and you could get food stamps," Kinsey said.
Kinsey also had a chance to teach, as classes of students would come to the post office for tours. However, she's spent most of her life teaching adults as she moved up into management becoming a customer service supervisor, then a retail supervisor and finally a postmaster.
"I'm such an energetic person, I thought management would be perfect. I can actually train and show people, clerks and carriers, how to properly take care of customers and lead them," Kinsey said. "My job is making sure customers are serviced properly and to take postal service to the next level."
One of the things Kinsey wants to do is promote her open door policy with the public. If you have a complaint about the post office, Kinsey wants you to feel free to call or visit. She'll spend a lot of time at an office at the main Covington post office to be easily accessible to the public.
The postal service is also pushing programs meant to improve customer service and boost office revenues. One of the biggest pushes is to promote the postal services' direct mail programs, where business can do bulk mailings to customers for as low as 9 cents a flier.
Rural and city carriers look out for illegally placed fliers on mailboxes and then solicit those businesses to sign for the legal method of spreading the word. In addition, Kinsey herself personally goes to new business in town and introduces herself and the full suite of services.
In addition, the post office is promoting the fact customers can get passports made there, as well as the fact customers can request that carriers pick up packages free of charge from their home or business. Customers can sign up online at usps.com.
Some rural residents, including those in Mansfield and Newborn, have been faced with a reduction in hours at their offices, but Kinsey said the office is just trying to remain self-sufficient.
One common misconception is that taxpayers pay the salaries of postal workers; however, Kinsey said postal workers and all expenses are paid from the revenues made through mailing services.
"Even though we're struggling, I still have to express to employees that we have to do our job and stay focused," she said.
"We still have to preserve services and as postmaster, I have to continue to implement programs and be creative doing it."