By SVERRE BAKKE
Feb. 10 is a date of special significance to White Salmon's new postmaster.
That's the date on which Susan J. Gross began her career with the U.S. Postal Service back in 1979, in Carson.
Naturally, she chose it as the date for her swearing-in as White Salmon's 18th postmaster, a job she was officially awarded on Jan. 22.
Gross, a native of Hood River, became the sixth woman in the local post office's 135-year history to hold the appointment. The others were Elizabeth Hunsaker, Julia E. Estes, Genevieve C. Maurer, Donnie R. Thomas and Mildred W. Hanson.
Gross succeeded Ken Block of White Salmon, who retired in December 2004. She had been postmaster in Lyle since 2000 and prior to that served as postmaster in Cascade Locks for eight years.
The career civil service employee started out as a part-time clerk in Carson--a position she held for 10 years--before taking a similar posting in Stevenson that lasted two years.
Her career began to take off in the early 1990s when she transferred to Portland's main downtown post office, where she worked as a major business account representative.
She followed that with temporary stints as officer-in-charge of post offices in Fairview, Beaver Creek and Estacada in Oregon, and Carson and Goldendale in Washington.
"My goal was to eventually become a postmaster, so that's why I took the OIC assignments," explained Gross, whose maternal and paternal grandmothers both were postmasters.
Gross finally realized her goal of becoming a postmaster herself with her promotion to the Cascade Locks position in 1992. Some eight years later, she transferred laterally to the Lyle post office because her family had moved from Cascade Locks to Underwood.
Gross said she didn't want to leave the Lyle post office but knew she had to if she wanted to continue growing in the position of postmaster.
"In Lyle is was mostly, me, myself and I. I loved it," she said. "My decision to apply for this job was a matter of taking on a new challenge, being closer to home, an increase in pay--all of those things."
As the White Salmon postmaster, Gross said she has more management responsibility in terms of administrative work and supervising a larger staff.
She currently is updating the post office's boxholder registry, as mandated by the Postal Service, to address Homeland Security and identity theft issues.
"It's something we are legally bound to perform," said Gross, who mailed out an Application for Post Office Box Service in late January to each of White Salmon's 1,600 boxholders, all of whom are required to comply with the request for information.
When the project--which aims to improve customer service--is all said and done later this year, "we're going to have better accountability in how we handle and deliver the mail," Gross said.