|8/21/2014 8:11:00 AM|
Leavenworth Post Office bids farewell to Dickerson, likely its last civil servant
Dan Dickerson is part of a dying breed in the postal system. When he retires from Leavenworth Post Office, Dickerson will likely be the last civil servant the office will ever see.
Photo by Ian Dunn
He became a civil servant when he was 17 years old, when he joined the Coast Guard. Later, he would continue his civil service duties with the Post Office. As the last of the civil servants are retiring from the Post Office, Dickerson feels like something is being lost.
"You take an oath as a civil servant, just like the military. Even after I joined the Post Office, you take that same oath, to serve and protect the constitution. All my life, I've had that attitude. You are always a servant to the community," Dickerson said. "I've always done things with that outlook. You might see somebody needs help. A kids falls on her bicycle. You stop and help. Things like that."
Civil servants were no longer hired by Post Office after 1984, he said. Since then, everyone hired is just a federal employee. For Dickerson, something is waning.
"There just aren't anymore civil servants. That's not something in the governmental process anymore," Dickerson said. "I'm sure there are people out there that have that type of attitude, but they are not the civil servants that are hired with that service as part of their everyday goal."
There might be one or two civil servants in Wenatchee, he said. He will officially retire from the Post Office on Sept. 1. He spent the last five years of his career here. Dickerson, 54, and wife Rita Joye made their home up Chumstick some 22 years ago.
Originally from Forth Worth, Texas, it was the military which brought him to the Northwest.
"I started as a clerk/carrier. I also drove a five ton truck everyday from Auburn to Renton. I transferred to Seattle, stayed there for 10 years and transferred to Wenatchee," he said. "I am in the process of writing a book about the events that have occurred throughout my career, putting a humorous tint to those things."
A big fan of Patrick McManus, Dickerson is recounting some of the many things that happened to him over the course of his career, dog attacks, vehicles breaking down in the wintertime, etc. The first chapter is about a pair of dobermans he encountered the first week on the job.
With the training still fresh his mind, Dickerson set out on his mail route, not expecting to find to two dobermans guarding a mailbox.
"There are stairs going up, and all of sudden I can hear growling from a dog. I look up and there are two doberman pinchers at the top of the stairs, snarling. I try to remember my training. Don't look them in the eye, don't run. Just back away. I am backing up, and unbeknownst to me, there was a cat on the sidewalk, transfixed by the dogs," he said.
You can imagine what happens next. He steps on the cat, which shrieked, causing the dogs to go crazy. Dickerson takes off trailing mail over a block and a half, only to realize the dogs were chained.
Over 33 years, there are a lot of experiences, he said. He's found people deceased. Many times, he called for a welfare check.
"You get to know your customers. I think that is something that is lacking. There is such a push, push to get things done. They don't take the time to get to know the customers," he said. "That's something, as a civil servant, gets ingrained in you. You are not sherking your duties at all. You are not taking time away from the Post Office, but you get to know people and they get to know you."
Now, most of the routes are mounted, he said, so the public interaction is being lost. Dickerson always enjoyed visiting with customers. He feels that reflects well on the Post Office.
Dickerson said the first class letter is going the way of the dinosaur, mainly because of technology.
"They haven't kept up with technology, in my opinion. You just have to keep up. We are trying to now. We have the best parcel delivery response service via the internet. We work with Amazon and ebay," he said. "It's a service so readily accessible. The Post Office is there and ready. Those kinds of things have been resourceful and helpful."
Dickerson plans to stay in Leavenworth and tend to his small alfalfa farm up Merry Canyon. He's even taken up welding in recent years, which comes in handy on the farm.
He and wife Rita Joye love doing things together. She retired three years ago.
"I look back with pride. I've seen and done a lot of things for the Post Office," Dickerson said. "It's been a good career and good job for me."
Ian Dunn can be reached at 548-5286 or email@example.com.
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