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Postmaster slings his last sack of mail

White Salmon postmaster ends 22 years of service

When Ken Block began serving as postmaster in White Salmon, Ronald Reagan was still in his first term as president.

It was April 1982, and Block was a part-time mail clerk in tiny Corbett, Ore. Looking for more hours and a bigger paycheck, he applied for the open postmaster's job in White Salmon and ended up getting the call.

"I had to find full-time work, and this is what it turned into," explained Block. "It was a pretty big step, from a part-time clerk to the job here."

When he first came here, Block figured White Salmon would be a stepping stone to a more prestigious job somewhere else. But those plans soon changed.

"I was going to climb the ladder of success, but we fell in love with White Salmon," Block explained. "And White Salmon was growing, so I could have advancement without moving."

The seasons keep changing, however, and as of Dec. 10, Block will be retiring from the U.S. Postal Service.

"I've been on the clock 24-7, and am looking forward to enjoying snow," he joked. "If there was bad weather, and a lot of snow, I knew it would be a bad time getting the mail in and getting it delivered."

Block isn't planning a traditional retirement, however. When asked what he looked forward to doing once he retired, his answer was simple: "Getting a job," he said.

"My plan has never been to stop working," he explained. "I'll go do something I enjoy. I have an interest in construction, and may go to work in that realm."

Block's first job with the post office was in Eugene, Ore. His tour with the Navy ended in 1972, and almost immediately he got a job as a clerk with the post office.

"I took the exam while I was still in the Navy," Block recalls. "I got out of the Navy on Dec. 2, and I went to work for the post office on Dec. 4."

Of course, there have been many changes since Block took over as postmaster in White Salmon.

"This post office was built in July 1987," Block said. "It is adequate for the size of the community, but 99.9 percent of the [postal] boxes are full. We'll probably have to bump the walls in to put in more boxes."

Before the new facility was built, the post office was at 85 NE Estes, where Sunset Cycles is now located.

The White Salmon post office currently has 1,800 mail boxes and about 3,000 deliveries total. That compares with 1,100 boxes and about 1,750 total deliveries when Block arrived here in 1972.

The staffing levels haven't really changed, however. Block said there are four clerks and four carriers working out of the White Salmon office -- essentially the same staffing he had when he started here.

Computerization and other efficiency has kept manpower needs stable.

"The growth of White Salmon has not been huge, but the entire time I've been here it has been steady," he explained.

Block said his time with the Postal Service hasn't all been rosy.

"One of my complaints is the `one size fits all' mentality. I don't agree with that," he said. "And there's a lot more micro-management now. A lot is taken out of my control, and they are mandating things from up above. There is a window into this office from computers. There is a good side to that, but there is a dark side, too. "

Block praised the residents of the community.

"Overall, the White Salmon community is very supportive of the post office and the job we do," he said. "People really appreciate the personal service they get at this office.

Partly for that reason, Block and his wife, Carol, plan to remain in White Salmon, retirement or not.

"We have no intention of leaving. We love White Salmon," he said. "It's a great place to live."

Even though he is retiring relatively early -- Block is only 55 -- he said he has loved serving as postmaster over the years.

"It's one of those unique positions in a town. I feel honored to have served. To be the postmaster of a town is a real honor," he explained. "I have zero regrets. I'm just ready to do something new."

Part of the "something new" will be travel. The Blocks have already planned a celebratory trip to Hawaii in January.

To commemorate Block's retirement, the couple will have an open house.

"It's for friends and for the community," said Carol.

The open house is scheduled for Dec. 12, from 2-5 p.m. at the Block's home at 1467 NW Elton Dr. in White Salmon, and it ought to be an extra special event for the outgoing postmaster.

"It's Ken's birthday that day too," explained Carol.


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