Epperly (third from right) and his postal crew. (Photo: Vane)
Mammoth’s new postmaster arrives via Alabama, hails from the O.C.
Two months ago, Jim Epperly drove 2,400 miles in a U-Haul truck from Alabama to Mammoth Lakes. “I’ll never do that again,” he laughed. But the journey thus far has been worth it, Epperly said; 17 years in Alabama was enough, and this O.C. native was “looking for change.”
Now he’s Mammoth Lakes’ newest Postmaster, happening upon the opening when looking for Post Office positions in resort towns. “It was almost destiny,” said Epperly, who looked at Breckenridge and Vail before Mammoth crossed his radar. “The last time I was here was 10 years ago, and when I left that day I thought it’d be real neat to work in this town.” That dream has become reality.
It’s a difficult time to be a postmaster, given recent cuts to service, restructuring, and post office closures. Epperly reported that the Post Office was $3 billion in the red as of the third quarter of this year, with a $9-10 billion budget deficit projected by the end of the year. But Epperly is committed to spreading the word that it’s up to citizens to keep the doors of the Post Office open.
“A lot of people are misunderstood in thinking we receive funds from the federal government,” he said. In reality, “all the funding we receive is through postage and services.” That’s why Epperly is urging residents of Mammoth not only to send a letter to politicians to “tell them the Post Office needs some help,” but also to “go out and buy a Christmas card this holiday season and put a 44-cent stamp on it. You can’t beat a tangible card that you can hold in your hand.”
Epperly is also hitting the streets to drum up additional business, spreading the word about a new service, Every Door Direct Mail, which allows residents and businesses to do bulk mailing without a bulk-mailing permit. “If I haven’t been to your business yet, I will,” he said.
Epperly also emphasized that he has an open-door policy, and hopes that “anyone who’d like to come in here and talk, will.” The Sheet took advantage of this invitation on Wednesday. One topic of interest to Lunch: will newspaper boxes on postal property be reinstated?
“It’s on my list,” Epperly said. “I’m gonna look into it, and if I can, it’ll be back out there. But obviously I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize my job.”
Fair enough, but what about the date stamp taken away from Mammoth Business Essentials owner Craig Hansen? On that issue, Epperly said, his hands were tied. “That was by the book,” he said. “No one in the general public should ever have a round dater. If one were lost here, I’d have to report it. It’s that kind of thing.”
One thing Epperly hopes he won’t get flak for is the P.O. box renewal procedure, which requires the owner to come into the Post Office in person with 2 forms of ID and proof of physical address. “This is not ‘Jim’s rule,’” he said. “It’s a Post Office procedure.” He added, “Without this system, we’d have no P.O. boxes left.” As it is, Epperly estimated he fields about “five calls a day” from residents who have missed the renewal deadline and can’t show up in person.
Epperly’s other duties, which include keeping all Post Office finances straight and getting the mail commitment to the community up, have left him little time to explore the surrounding area, something he said he’s eager to do. “I’ve barely scratched the surface of this place,” he said. “The farthest I’ve been is June.”
But for now, Epperly said, “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to come up here and be a part of this community. To be a servant for all the residents of Mammoth Lakes is my goal now.”