There’s a new face at the Vaughn post office.
In December, DeeDee Emmett was appointed postmaster of the local facility.
Emmett had worked for the postal service in Tacoma since 1987.
“I started out as a clerk on a machine sorting letters and we would key in ZIP Codes—one letter a second—for eight hours. It was very monotonous,” Emmett said after a recent shift.
In 1995, she was promoted to management in a supervisory position.
“I was working just with employees. I didn’t work with the customers at all. So I wanted to make the post office a better place to work,” she said.
But she missed the customer service part of the job—“the face-to-face contact.”
She has plenty of that at Vaughn.
There are more than 700 box holders in the Key Center facility and they all come in to the post office to get their mail.
Emmett has already learned most of their names, too.
“As they come in, I at least recognize their face, if not their name. And most of them know my name,” she said. “They come and say ‘Hi DeeDee.’ I love that! It really makes me feel part of the community.”
Emmett has deep roots in the Key Peninsula, even though she lives on Fox Island.
Her grandmother lived in Home and as a child Emmett visited her frequently.
“So this is kind of like over the river and through the woods fun for me,” she said. “I have lots of great memories.”
Her father grew up on the Key Peninsula and graduated from Peninsula High School. Several of Emmett’s customers went to school with him.
“And my grandfather, Chuck McVicker, was a school bus driver out here forever,” she said. “People called him ‘Shorty’ because he was about 5-foot-4. I asked a couple of my customers if they remember their school bus driver and they said ‘Yeah. Shorty McVicker.’ And I said, ‘Yep, he’s the one.’”
One of Emmett’s goals is to increase revenue at the popular facility.
“One of the things people don’t recognize is that if our revenue goes down, that’s how they close post offices. They determine if a post office is going to stay open based on revenue the post office makes,” she said, adding that her post office doesn’t receive any tax dollars.
“We’re completely self-supporting. Tax dollars don’t supplement us,” she said. “All the monies we use to pay our employees and run our facilities come from selling a stamp or a P.O. box.”
So Emmett is encouraging people to come in, to say hi, and to buy stamps or rent a P.O. box.
“We have a big problem with theft out here (on the Key) because this is so rural and so many people live at the ends of little dead end roads,” she said.
Post office boxes are a safe alternative. “Your mail stays in a safe environment where no one can touch it,” she said.
Emmett also is committed to making the post office a friendly, helpful, comfortable place.
“I’m a people person and I want people to like coming here.”
She was surprised recently when a couple of young 20-something fellows came into the post office and needed help mailing a letter. “The internet is really killing the post office, so I’m even showing people how to use a stamp.”
But that’s just another part of good customer service, she said.
“JoAnn Clark (a former postmaster) was here forever and ever and ever, and people really liked her. So when people come in here now, I want them to feel comfortable. I want to earn their trust.
“I want people to know that I’m here for them and that community is really important to me.
“And if you want to keep the post office, you’ve got to use it,” Emmett said.