Postmaster retires from Benton post office
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
BENTON, Mo. -- After 33 years and eight months of employment, Benton's postmaster has retired from the U.S. Postal Service.
"I'm really going to miss the people," said Danny Kern, who has worked at the Benton branch since 1996. Before that, he was a postmaster in Gordonville and Anniston, Mo., and began his career with the Postal Service as a part-time clerk in Chaffee, Mo.
While Kern said he's seen a lot of changes in his time with the postal service, technology -- specifically computers -- was the biggest.
"What used to take us a week or so to get done is practically instantaneous now," he said. For instance, financial information used to be turned in quarterly but is now submitted every night, Kern said.
"That's one of the reasons I'm getting out of here -- technology has passed me by," Kern said with a laugh.
In addition to keeping the books, it's Kern's job to ensure mail is forwarded, drum up business for the post office and more. He manages a staff with two rural route drivers, a postmaster relief and two substitute route drivers.
"It's gotten so busy now that it's hard to carry on a conversation [with customers] like you used to," Kern said.
And those brief conversations, along with Kern's friendliness, are what a lot of the people who work with him on practically a daily basis said they'll miss.
"If he had time and I had time, we always would share a few words," said Beverly Riley, a Benton resident who also works in the county clerk's office. "I'll really miss seeing him there."
Riley said that Kern was dependable and helpful.
"No matter what you took to him, you could count on it going out that day," she said. Kern was also quite helpful during elections, making sure all absentee ballots were sent, and also made it back to their office.
Benton City Clerk Connie Barnett said that Kern living nearby in New Hamburg was a plus, because he knew most of those for whom he was handling mail, and could correct any addresses.
"He was always there to get the job done and be a friendly face," she said.
During his years at the Benton Post Office, Kern said he built a relationship with several of the town's citizens.
"I've known a lot of good people," he said. "I always miss them after they've passed away."
Kern had some pretty big shoes to fill when he took over, as another longtime postmaster in Benton had just retired.
"He made the transition so much easier," said Barnett.
Now, many of the town's residents are in high hopes that Kern's replacement will be just as good.
For the time being, however, Mike Essner, postmaster at Oran, will take over. He'll be in charge at Benton until a new postmaster is appointed, said Kern.
As customers said goodbye to the postmaster on Friday, he assured them he'll be nearby. "I'm not going away," he told one woman in the lobby.
Kern said he's unsure what he'll do in retirement yet, but is sure he'll find something to do.
His summer is already booked, though.
"My wife already has a list of things for me to do," he said.