BERNARD – Year-round and summer residents here were popping into the post office throughout the day, on July 27, for a retirement party for Linda Musson.
Musson will retire from nearly 25 years as postmaster on July 31.
All together, she has served 39 years with the United States Postal Service. Before Bernard, she served for six years at the Southwest Harbor Post Office and eight years at the Bass Harbor Post Office.
“It’s been a nice morning,” she said to a crowd of well-wishers who filled the post office’s small foyer.
Some residents fondly joked: Perhaps a desk could be put in the foyer for Musson; people could hand her their mail and she could just put it in the post boxes – and shovel the walkway in the winter.
At a time when the USPS is downsizing rural postal service, some residents also observed that Musson timed her retirement well. And they worried about the status of the postal service overall.
In May, the USPS issued an announcement for a new strategy “that could keep the nation’s smallest Post Offices open for business, while providing a framework to achieve significant cost savings as part of the plan to return the organization to financial stability.
“The plan would keep the existing Post Office in place, but with modified retail window hours to match customer use. Access to the retail lobby and to PO Boxes would remain unchanged, and the town’s ZIP Code and community identity would be retained.”
The new strategy would be implemented over a two-year, multi-phased approach and would be completed by September 2014. Once implementation is completed, the Postal Service estimates savings of a half billion dollars annually.
“This new option complements existing alternatives, which include: Providing mail delivery service to residents and businesses in the affected community by either rural carrier or highway contract route; Contracting with a local business to create a Village Post Office; and Offering service from a nearby Post Office.”
A voluntary early retirement incentive for the nation’s more than 21,000 non-executive postmasters was also announced.
On MDI, the plan reduces Bernard, Bass Harbor, and Hulls Cove’s hours from eight to six. The plan reduces hours for Cranberry Isles, Islesford, Salisbury Cove, Seal Cove, Seal Harbor, and Swans Island from eight to four.
“This has been a busy little post office,” Musson said of the Bernard station. “I actually have a big route.”
Residents agreed that the rural post office is an important center of the community. And a postmaster, especially someone like Musson, who has held the position for many years, was a valuable asset.
“She knows everyone, keeps everyone in touch,” said one resident. “FedEx and UPS won’t be able to find anyone anymore.”
“It’s bittersweet,” said Musson. “I’ll miss the people.”
“Yes, and that’s why we’ll miss you,” said another resident.