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updated: 2/24/2011 4:51 PM

For 25 years, Lisle employee has put the 'service' in postal service

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Not only does Bob Hurst know the United States Postal Service like the back of his hand, he knows its customers.

Such knowledge comes with his dedicated 25 years of work with the postal service, almost all at the Lisle Post Office. When a customer walks into the Ogden Avenue location to mail a package or purchase stamps from a clerk, chances are pretty good the tall, dark-haired gentleman at cubicle two will be there to help the next person in line.

Hurst assists customers with every service the post office provides, then handles the payment by cash, credit or debit cards. Customer satisfaction is high on his priority list.

"We are here to help our customers," Hurst said. "I go by the Golden Rule that what you give out is what comes back to you."

He points out that the word "service" is incorporated into the name of the United States Postal Service.

"We are told on a daily basis how nice we are here at this post office," Hurst said. "It is important to us."

A person sees a lot of changes in 25 years. Hurst recalled some last week during his 45-minute lunch. He puts in a 9- to 91/2-hour day.

"When I started here in 1985, Lisle had a population of 10,000 with 19 routes," Hurst said. "I started out as the early morning clerk and began work at 3 a.m. I'd sort mail and have it ready by 8 in the morning."

During those early years, sometimes Hurst would deliver parts of routes or do the "downtown loop." As a new clerk in the post office's original, small School Street location, he was issued two different scales, a calculator and a scratch pad. His previous experience in the military, managing a store and handling cash were valued skills. When the integrated retail terminals came in that first year, he thought it was a step to the future.

Hurst even met his wife on a postal collection run to empty the mailbox located in front of the popular Book Nook. The couple married in 1991, the year the Lisle Post Office moved to its present, larger Ogden Avenue location.

One of Hurst's fond memories was helping a local family adopt a child from South America. He helped the family through a lot of correspondence, and was honored that the family brought the baby in to meet him when she became part of their family. Since then, he has watched the little girl grow to adulthood. He gets to know a lot of Lisle families.

"I like the interaction with the public in my job," Hurst said. "I have watched kids grow up and go off to college and come back to live and raise their kids."

With years of loyalty to the postal service, Hurst knows the business. He can tell you that Lisle now has 23 routes, a little down from its 25 route high. He understands that the total volume of mail across the country diminished since its high in 2005, but the parcel business continues to rise. Lisle's window service is open 61 hours a week, and its 24/7 Automated Postal Center self-service kiosk in the lobby offers quick and convenient access to postal services around the clock, he says.

"We are in the top 10 percent with revenue among post offices from that machine," Hurst said.

In his 25 years, Hurst has seen the price of a stamp climb from 22 cents to the 44 cents it is today.

"That is not even a penny increase a year," he said.

In 2009, the Postal Service collected, sorted and delivered more than 177 billion pieces of mail and it processes 24 million an hour according to its website, usps.com. It visits every address in the country, which totals 150 million homes, businesses and P.O. boxes.

Mailing is big business and one way to help facilitate the mail is the Postal Customer Council service. Local chapters work to find the best practices and ways to work together to get the mail out.

National Postal Customer Council Day is Wednesday, Sept. 15. An expected 500 people will meet at Medinah Banquets in Addison for the Northern Illinois Postal Customer Council event from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Open to the public, the day is designed to share current information about the value of mail, the challenges facing the industry and provide networking opportunities. Register online at ni-pcc.org. A $35 registration fee includes breakfast and lunch.

Postmaster General John E. Potter will speak via satellite on the current financial challenges, service performance and collaboration between business mailers and the postal service.

The postal service has been a pseudo-government group since the 1970s, Hurst explained. Rates and regulations must be approved by Congress.

"(The postal service) only exists on the revenue generated by stamps, services and our products," Hurst said. "We receive no tax subsidies from the government. Your taxes do not pay our salaries."

The business end has increased to include a variety of greeting cards, packaging materials and matching note cards with commemorative stamps.

"It makes a lot of sense to sell greeting cards," Hurst said. "It is a convenience for our customers."

The online services at usps.com are convenient. Online postal customers can start a vacation hold and set a resume day at no cost. You can order free shipping boxes, buy the newest commemorative stamps or even a Frank Sinatra greeting card all online. Check out the site and its assortment of products and services.

But if you want personal attention, seek out Bob at the Lisle Post Office.

• Joan Broz writes about Lisle. E-mail her at jgbroz@yahoo.com.

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