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Paynesville Press - July 26, 2006

Swanson sworn in as postmaster

By Melissa Andrie

"We provide probably one of the most unique serivces in the country," said Margaret Swanson, referring to the postal service. Since the mail system is such a constant part of life, it may seem strange to consider it unique, but its consistency is what makes it notable. The postal system delivers to and picks up from every mailing address in the country six days a week, connecting the entire country, Swanson explained.

Margaret Swanson Swanson, Paynesville's new postmaster, should know. She began working for the postal service in 1985, when she took a carrier position in Hopkins, where she worked as acting supervisor.

Margaret Swanson, who began in her position as the postmaster of Paynesville's Post Office in May, was officially sworn in last week. She has been working for the postal service since she was a carrier in 1985.

Swanson was also a supervisor in Eden Prairie, Edina, two Minneapolis offices, and Willmar before taking on the highest position in Paynesville's office. She even did "various detail assignments," she said, such as training others on the computer system the postal service now uses.

While supervising, she always had a manager, but now Swanson is in charge of all aspects of the Paynesville office: finances, employee hiring, and customer service, among other things. She is under some direction from Mike Meyer, a manager who oversees 168 post offices in a 1700 square foot area from his St. Cloud office.

There are currently twelves employees at the Paynesville post office, including Swanson, who called the staff "very capable and efficient." They make sure mail is delivered to to residents in seven different townships, with each carrier driving up to 100 miles per day, according to Swanson, though the city carriers walk their routes much of the time.

Swanson is as happy with the location of her work as she is with her staff. When she first moved with her family to Lake Koronis nine years ago, she commuted to downtown Minneapolis for six months before supervising in Willmar for eight years. When she spent a summer as officer in charge of the Paynesville office two years ago, she knew of her desire to return to this post office.

This area is "friendly, and you have everything you need here," she said. Swanson - who grew up in Bird Island and Hector - had a trailer at Stone Gate Lodge on Lake Koronis with her family for 18 years before they moved here.

The move was a little spontaneous, even considering how much she already loved the area. An investigation of a "For Sale" sign by a lake cabin ended with the Swansons discovering that "it came with a house," as the two dwellings were on the same property, and they purchased the place.

Swanson worked partial days at the Paynesville Post Office starting in the middle of May, as she recoered from back surgery, and official began on Saturday, May 27, but she waited until last week to have the swearing in ceremony, so that much of her family could attend.

She and her husband Harold, who farmed most of his life and now runs a trucking business in the summer, have three grown children - two sons and a daughter - and four grandchildren.

As she organizes things in the Paynesville office to suit her, Swanson looks forward to becoming more involved in the community - she has been a director for the Koronis Lake Association for nine years - and "providing good service to the people of the community."

Providing that service starts at just before 6 a.m., when a truck arrives and the clerks begins to sort the mail. Carriers begin at 7 a.m. and mail for the P.O. boxes is mostly sorted by 8:30 a.m.

At 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., trucks take away mail to a processing plant in St. Cloud, where machines sort 90 percent of the letter mail, reading handwriting and going through at least 30,000 pieces of mail a minute. This is cheaper and faster than sorting it in Paynesville, according to Swanson, who spends her time at the post office doing paperwork on the computer, scheduling employees, sorting boxes, and working at the counter.

Modern technology, including automatic sorting machines, have changed the post office dramatically since the first one opened in the area in 1857, with only a tea chest and wooden mailboxes. The first postmaster was Edwin Payne, one of the first two permanent settlers in the town and its namesake.

There was only one post office when Payne began, but for thirteen years, the area had two post offices. That was due to a rivalry between Old Paynesville and New Paynesville. They were consolidated and the New Paynesville post office was officially named the Paynesville post office in 1905.

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