|Assistant post office manager Jerry Winzer hand sorts mail inside Wesleyan Station.|
| After working 28 years at Middletown’s U.S. Postal Service, Gerard “Jerry” Winzer decided to it was time to retire. Winter, he learned, is not the ideal time to call it quits.
“November was a bad time to retire,” the 62-year-old says. “I wasn’t too crazy about just hanging around. I needed to keep busy.”
To beat the winter blues, Winzer took up a part-time position at Wesleyan Station delivering mail. Part-time evolved into full-time work, and, this year, the assistant post office manager will celebrate 12 years working at Wesleyan, and his 40th year in the postal services profession.
Winzer’s workday begins at 7 a.m. when he’s greeted by heaps of unsorted mail. A mail messenger picks up the parcels an hour later to deliver.
“By 8, I’ve already sorted a lot of mail,” he says noting the dozens of wood shelves he packs with envelopes, papers, publications and packages. “You can’t be a slacker in the post office.”
Lisa Davis, the post office’s manager deals with budgets, equipment and bill paying. That leaves Winzer to oversee 20 student workers, two full-time office clerks and two full-time mail messengers, who each cover a specified route twice a day. They make approximately 80 stops per route, delivering and collecting mail at more than 100 departments.
Every letter or publication that comes through Wesleyan Station is hand sorted. With no mail delivery on the weekends, the postal workers have to deal with twice as much mail on Mondays.
“You should see it in here on a Monday. It’s crazy,” he says.
Campus mail used to be sorted alphabetically, but Winzer has since developed his own sorting system. Now, mail is bundled up inside Wesleyan Station in order of the carriers’ routes.
“It runs in order,” he says, glancing over the mail shelves. “If the carrier is in North College, he’ll go to the cashier’s office, then to the top floor for payroll, the trustees, academic affairs, then to the dean’s office, and then he’ll go over to where you’re at, in South College, to communications, to the president’s office, public information, and administration. He just follows that route, so it’s a pretty good system. It’s easy to follow.”
In addition to mail sorting, rerouting letters, managing the staff and working the window, Winzer spends a portion of his day on a postage metering machine.
Winzer examines the machine’s counter. It reads “337,062.”
“Three-hundred-thirty-seven thousand,” he says. “That’s how much money Wesleyan has spent on mailing through this machine, since we’ve got this machine. And the machine is going on its third year,” he said, while metering two envelopes from the Psychology Department.
Before any letter goes through the metering machine, Winzer types in a department code, to assure proper billing. Each department has its own six-digit code, but Winzer rarely sneaks a peek. He usually types in the codes by memory.
“I know a lot of them. I guess they’re just in my subconscious,” he says.
His good memory also is put to the test when he meets customers at the transaction counter.
“Somebody will say their name, and I just know what box number they have, and they are just amazed,” Winzer says. “It just becomes a habit.”
The post office has moved to different locations throughout campus. First in the Downey House, and then Fisk Hall, Wesleyan Station now occupies space in the Davenport Campus Center, formerly the John Bell Scott building’s science laboratory.
With barely enough room to pass a mail cart through, Winzer is eagerly awaiting the much larger mailroom that will be housed in the Usdan University Center. Construction will begin early this year.
According to Alan Rubacha of Construction Services, a mail receiving, sorting, distributing and package handling area in the basement will occupy 1,230 square feet. Another 1,700 square feet of space will accommodate 3,000 post boxes, two transaction counters and additional mail sorting space.
The postal workers can use the space. In the 2002-03 academic year, Wesleyan Station received and sorted more than 3.5 million pieces of mail and packages. Winzer and his staff handle approximately 8,000 pieces of campus mail every week.
The current facility is about 1,000 square feet.
“I wish more people from the departments would come over here and see what we do,” Winzer says. “We do a lot.”
After Winzer leaves the office at 3:30 p.m., he returns to his home in Middletown. He spends his leisure time jogging or with his wife, Missy, and nine grandkids. He’s also the vice chairman of the Board of Education, and hosts two television shows on public access television titled “Today’s Issues” and “Spotlight on Education.”
But Winzer never minds coming back to work — well, all but one day of the year.
“Valentines Day. It’s by far the worst,” he says. “Worst than Christmas time. Grandmas and grandpas and everybody is sending tons of candy and flowers here. There’s those chocolate kisses all over the floor. There’s lots and lots of mail around then.”
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|