Northwest NEWS

January 22,2001

Front Page

Duvall Postmaster Bob Westfall retires

by Lisa Allen
   Valley View Editor
   DUVALL - When Bob Westfall signed on as Duvall's postmaster in 1993, his mail delivering days were supposed to be over. But that was before the town's population took off. The recent rapid growth, combined with a hiring crunch, has left the small post office chronically short of staff.
   So Westfall, on most days last summer and as recently as last weekend, added a rural delivery route to his regular postmaster duties.
   "I cased and carried the mail," he said last week as he reminisced about his 38-year career in the U.S. Postal Service. "It helps that I'm fast and have a good memory for numbers."
   Westfall will be retiring as postmaster on Feb. 2, and, as much as he may miss having someplace to go every day, he says he feels discouraged because of the pressure of the increased workloads.
   "When I arrived there were two routes and a small auxiliary route," he said. "Now there are six routes. There has been that much growth. That has been the most difficult part dealing with the growth and not being able to recruit enough help."
   Westfall said the post office has been one carrier short for almost two years and sometimes even two short.
   But it is also his opinion that there are no excuses not to get the job done and the mail delivered.
   "I don't think 600 people (on that route) would appreciate not getting their mail, just because their regular carrier was sick," he said. "We need to take care of the community."
   But what if Westfall called in sick? That never happened, he said. Westfall said he suffered from a couple of colds over the years, but never anything that would keep him home. He will be retiring with almost two years of accumulated sick leave.
   The efficient and hardworking postmaster will clearly leave an empty space when he departs.
   Longtime clerk Sue Johnson said she is not looking forward to that day.
   "We will really miss him," she said.
   But Westfall said he has plenty of hobbies to keep him busy. His passion for fly fishing is shared with a group of about 38 others from the area who open a lake north of Oroville every spring. He is on the Duvall Tavern soft-tipped dart team with fellow dart throwers Mike Hickey and Brian Naud. The team has qualified for the nationals in Reno this year. Westfall also likes to tinker with cars and in the past he and his wife have traveled on his motorcycle, three times to Kansas and once to Canada.
   "I still have the motorcycle," he said. "But now I might have to buy that Harley."
   Westfall, 57, began his career with the U.S. Postal Service (then the Post Office) in 1962 in the town he grew up in, Shawnee Mission, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. He left a job with the Santa Fe Railroad, even taking a cut in pay, to go to work for the post office for $2.06 an hour.
   In those days military service was not voluntary, so a couple of years after that he joined the Navy. As a crew member with an anti-sub patrol squadron, he flew into Seattle in the winter, and seeing how green the area was, decided it would be a good place to live. So upon returning to Kansas, he swapped jobs with a Mercer Island letter carrier and has been here ever since.
   "For fly fishing, this is the place to be, instead of Kansas," he quipped.
   In 1968, Westfall transferred to the Kirkland Post Office as a carrier supervisor, later moving to the Bothell Post Office. From there, he went to the division office in Seattle. That job involved doing audits in Washington, Idaho and northern Oregon. He became Duvall's postmaster in February of 1993.
   Westfall still lives in Kirkland with his wife, who works at Top Foods in Woodinville. Their two daughters attend college.
   On Thursday, Feb. 1, the office will note Westfall's retirement with daylong refreshments beginning at 9 a.m. Cookies will be available and customers may share their memories in a scrapbook.
   Pete Bower, who runs the post office in Baring, just off Highway 2, will serve as Duvall's interim postmaster for about six weeks while a permanent replacement is sought.
   But, as Johnson and Westfall pondered the continuous shortage of staff and the increased loads, the big question hung in the air ... "Will the new postmaster deliver the mail?"