Lawrence's postmaster says automation will help meet the needs of Lawrence as it grows.
Have a problem with your mail? Tell Bill Reynolds. As Lawrence's postmaster, it's his job is to stamp out delivery problems.
If everything gets delivered to the right place and in a timely fashion, it's because the clerks and carriers did a good job, he said.
"If the mail is late or delivered to the wrong address, that's probably my fault," he said. "What postmasters are responsible for are the entire operation."
Reynolds has been in charge of Lawrence's mail since taking on the job of postmaster in 1986.
The operation includes two station managers who work at the main post office, 645 Vt., and the new Jayhawk Station, 1901 W. 31st.
Five other supervisors are in charge of clerks, carriers, customer service and contacts.
"We have about 170 employees in Lawrence," he said. "For a town of our size, we have a really large operation."
That's because Kansas University produces much mail, as well as many local businesses, he said.
"There are times when I regret that I don't have all of the specific knowledge I would like to have," he said. "But I'm fortunate because we've got employees in Lawrence who do know their job and do it very well."
Sorting it out
Reynolds, 48, has worked for the postal service for nearly 30 years.
He grew up just east of Lawrence in Tecumseh and went to Shawnee Heights High School.
In November 1966, while attending Washburn University in Topeka, he began working part-time at the Topeka post office.
"My first job was great," he said. "I stood in front of a small conveyor belt that ran from right to left in front of me."
His job was to put the short letters in one slot, the large in another slot and make sure the stamps were down and to the left and facing him.
"Back in those days, a human being could do about 2,000 an hour," he said. "Nowadays, a machine does it at 50,000 an hour."
After graduating from Washburn in 1971 with a degree in education, he decided to go into the postal service's management training program.
He worked in the Kansas City, Kan., post office for two years in the management program, which included four weeks as a carrier.
"Make no mistake about it. That by no means makes me a competent carrier," he said. "It doesn't even come close to what the carriers have to do as part of their regular daily job.
"But you don't have to do that work for more than a day or two when you find out it is more difficult than most people think."
He then went to the bulk mail center in Kansas City, Mo., where he worked in the labor relations department for four years.
Reynolds worked as manager of customer services in Lawrence from 1977 to 1980. After that, he went to Wichita for what he thought was a temporary assignment, but ended up working there for six years.
During the time in Wichita he maintained his household in Lawrence, where his wife, Sharon, worked and his two children went to school.
"My job in Wichita really covered the southern part of the state," he said. Because the Wichita office oversaw 315 post offices, Reynolds spent a lot of time on the road in that post and made it home on the weekends.
Growing with Lawrence
He came to Lawrence during a major reorganization of the postal service, taking over the position formerly held by Jack Harris, who retired.
Reynolds said the postal service is now going through a big change brought on by automated mail sorting.
The mail is now sorted by automated machinery in Kansas City and then sorted again by automation in Lawrence, he said.
"In Lawrence, Kansas, this is the first change in the way we sort mail for 100 years," he said. "The automated machinery changes all of it quite drastically."
He praised the new $1.5 million Jayhawk Station, which opened in August. A grand opening is expected to be held this month, he said.
The move from the 23rd Street station provides more parking and boxes and a postal products store, Reynolds said.
"The comments have really been positive from the customers and the employees," he said.
Reynolds said Lawrence has grown "tremendously" since he has come to the city.
"We're adding between 1,000 to 1,500 homes a year, and that's a lot," he said. "Automation will help us absorb growth. The machines will sort the mail about 600 letters a minute, where a good carrier will sort it 20 to 30 letters a minute."