Post office

Customers are assisted at the post office on Puppy Smith Street in this photograph from early 2019. The Aspen and Snowmass Village offices are without permanent leadership following last week’s departure of postmaster Aleicia Dickson, who served about one year in the role. A USPS spokesman said interviews are being conducted this week and the job will be filled soon.

The post offices in Aspen and Snowmass Village will undergo yet another change in leadership following the departure of postmaster Aleicia Dickson last week.

Dickson served her last day in Aspen late last week, according to local postal employees. James Boxrud, spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service in Colorado, confirmed that Dickson is moving on to another position within the organization, but declined to say which community or describe the nature of her new role.

A native of Montana, Dickson had been managing the two post offices since March 2019 after serving as postmaster in Vail. Like her recent predecessors, she struggled with a staff shortage and hiring issues connected to the local cost of living and dearth of affordable housing, in addition to limitations on replacing workers due to national USPS labor union agreements.

Despite being hamstrung in the position, the former U.S. Army sergeant was viewed by many of her employees and local customers as a tireless and dedicated presence. In previous interviews with the Aspen Daily News, she said she was continually working to post notices of job opportunities via the organization’s official site (usps.com/careers) and other online avenues.

She often was seen delivering mail and parcels during day and evening hours to help ease the workload on her employees, and worked many Sundays and holidays. In an October profile, she said she loved her job despite the challenges.

While she could not be reached this week for live comment, she confirmed her departure in a text message on Tuesday.

“You have heard right. I am taking a different position,” Dickson wrote. “It is bittersweet for me and leaving the crew here is heartbreaking. They have become a part of me.”

One local postal carrier said Dickson was the best postmaster he’s served over a period of several years. However, turnover in the top position, as well as among clerks, carriers and custodians, continues to be an issue locally. While USPS jobs are often lauded for their many benefits, the hours are long and the work is strenuous, especially because of the postal service’s last-mile delivery contract agreements with parcel carriers like Amazon, UPS and FedEx. The rise of online shopping, while generating revenue for the financially beleaguered postal service, has contributed to considerable employee burnout.

With so many parcels needing to be delivered, “It’s tough to stay ahead of it, and still deliver the regular mail,” the postal worker said, requesting that his name not be published. “There are some days when a supervisor tells us to ‘abandon the mail’ and focus on [Amazon] shipments.”

Early last month, Dickson estimated she needed about eight to 10 employees in Aspen. The Snowmass Village office is fully staffed, she said at the time. Since then, a full-time custodian has been hired for the Puppy Smith Street office in Aspen, Boxrud said, but the shortage of clerks and carriers remains.

Boxrud said such problems are common throughout the state, where the USPS has about 300 unfilled positions. Colorado’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reached a historic low of 2.5 percent in December. While jobs go begging in the world of postal service, hiring issues are common to other industries across the state as well — a negative byproduct of the economy and massive influx of new residents from other states.

An article last week in the Canyon Courier, a newspaper primarily serving the Jefferson County community of Evergreen just west of Denver, pointed out widespread concerns with mail and package deliveries. A town hall meeting has been scheduled for Thursday to discuss the problem.

Postal jobs typically take months to fill because of stringent background checks designed to protect the sanctity of mail delivery. Boxrud said the USPS is looking outside the box at fast-track hiring processes and new ways to spread the word about opportunities and benefits, such as having a presence at the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parade in Denver.

“We are definitely ready to hire,” he said. “We’re looking at starting more people out in career positions. Our benefit packages can be worth up to $20,000 per year.”

Boxrud said Dickson requested the change, and in no way is her departure considered a demotion or “corrective action.” For the time being, Reza Tehrani, Carbondale’s postmaster since August 2017, will be the “officer in charge” of the Aspen and Snowmass offices. Tehrani formerly worked in the Puppy Smith location for a few years, and actually resides in Aspen.

Meanwhile, the interview process is underway to determine who will be Aspen’s next postmaster. Boxrud said a decision could be made over the next few weeks, and that such positions are typically filled from within the organization. It’s the type of job, he said, that can’t be handled by someone without the experience.

Andre is a reporter for Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at andre@aspendailynews.com.