Rickayla Jackson: Holding to a gold standard
Published 10:20 am Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Tracy K. Hall
Rickayla Jackson has been our postmaster since June of 2022. She is excited to be sitting in the top seat of our local postal service. Rickayla sees the postmaster as being a “esteemed and trusted position” within the Untied State Postal Service. She should know, she has been with the USPS since 2015, where she started as an assistant to carriers. She sees herself coming “full circle” as she started the assistantship in Americus, and she now returns as our postmaster. On the in-between, she has served as a clerk in Blakely, a supervisor in Columbus and a postmaster in Georgetown. Since last being an assistant to carriers, she has come a long way.
So, what is a postmaster? She is the head of the Americus Post Office, but she also oversees smaller post offices within Sumter County like Andersonville, Plains, Desoto and Leslie. She makes sure the day-to-day operations are not only running smoothly, but she also wants the customers in her post offices to have a premier experience, to have “the golden standard they deserve.” Rickayla is responsible for setting the tone for good customer service not only inside the post offices, but on the carrier routes as well. Rickayla has 36 employees, in the city of Americus we have 8 routes, and, in the county, we have 13 rates. In her growth from an assistant carrier to postmaster, she reports being driven by “always, always seeking knowledge.”
She didn’t start out wanting a career with the USPS. In her undergraduate studies she studied pre-law. But a friend changed everything. “I had a friend who worked within the post office. She always told me about how it was such a great job and how it provided for her and her family. I had young daughters (to consider). She told me it was a great company to work for and how it had been around forever, and I thought, hmmm, okay, it’s a federal position, a good position and great benefits and that’s how I got interested.”
Rickayla is making history in Sumter County. While she is unaware of the history of women in the post master’s position, she is pretty certain she is the first black woman to hold the title. She reports, “If it is true, Americus’ Post Office has been around since 1833—it’s big to me. I’m a part of the history of Americus. I am just glad to be in the Americus community and making a difference for residents, improving delivery services—it feels good. I can tell my children and grandchildren I made history. It feels awesome!”
Rickayla is very complimentary of her employees. In Americus alone, they serve 13, 622 addresses. There is no room for delay in delivering the mail. If it comes to the post office on Monday it is in your mailbox by the end of Monday. Her team works seven days a week. The seventh day is package mail only, but all the other days, you may receive all types of mail. “If it comes in on that day, it goes out that day, so we work until all the mail is delivered.”
All of her employers have a significant role to play. Premium customer service is what Rickayla is after. Her favorite part of the job is seeing great resolutions come to fruition. Those resolutions could of course mean a problem popped up and everybody ended up happy, but it could also be that the customers are getting not only their needs met but growing relationships with their mail carrier. There is proof many of us have great relationships with a USPS employee. Some neighbors bring the clerks in the post office breakfast as a way to say thank you. Others leave little gifts for their carrier to pick up on their route. Rickayla says it is not unusual for carriers to come back into the office bragging about what residents have left them. Rickayla is impressed at how much our carriers know about us. She says they play a vital role in our neighborhoods which we may not even know about. She refers to them as “the eyes and ears” of the neighborhoods. Mail folks have initiated and maintained relationships with us. They know when we are out of town and if something suspicious take place on our property, they will often call Rickayla with the status and wait for direction on how to proceed. Sometimes it is a call to the police department, other times it is a call to the homeowner. They make a point to know their customers and treat them with the best services possible. On some occasions, a resident may not see anyone all day except their mail carrier. It is a very important role they play.
Rickayla repeatedly gives examples of how much the carriers care for the customers. One particular story she holds dear. One of the carriers picked up a letter with no stamp which was addressed to “my mom in heaven.” The carrier knew enough to know the home belonged to a foster family, which is pretty remarkable on its own. What followed is some of the gold standard customer service Rickayla so enjoys delivering. The letter was brought to her, and after much consideration they decided to open and read the letter. It was from a seven-year-old boy whose mom had died. He was missing her. The postal team decided to buy a card, add an angel and with permission of his foster mom let the young man know his mom was watching over him, just as a guardian angel would.
These aren’t the only types of letters they receive, and we are coming up on a fun season. Letters to Santa often hit the mail. And when they do, they are treated with care. Every letter is responded to by Santa who then sends his response from the North Pole to the child (or adult!) who sent the letter. It is part of their Operation Santa Clause initiative. Rakayla wants folks to know, “There are a lot of Santa’s helpers right here in Americus!”
There are plenty of other advantages to take part in. The post office will hold your mail so your home will be free of “unwanted attention” as it piles up. If you are going away for an extended amount of time, they will bundle a week’s worth of mail and send it to whatever address you so choose. Have a special place you want your packages left? As long as it is reasonable, they will comply. Another rather new addition to their services is “informed delivery.” Sign up through usps.com and once your mail is delivered you can receive an email with the exact pieces in your box. No more leaving work to see if a check came, you get to see your exact delivery. Rural deliverers are also retail clerks in they can leave you stamps at your request. It is a little tougher if you live on a city route, as your carrier will have to bring them next day, but it can be done.
What about the old dog and mail carrier relationship? Your mail carrier is trained in how to handle the dog. The first thing is to look for signs there is a dog living at the home. If needed, the carrier is issued a “satchel” which s/he is trained to put between themselves and the dog to keep from being attacked. They are also equipped with dog repellant spray. If a carrier fears for their safety, they will leave a note saying they will attempt delivery again tomorrow or they can retrieve the mail at the post office.
With as much as our mail employees do for us, how can we return the favor? Goodies! Post office employees may accept gifts. They are not allowed to accept cash, but they can accept gift cards up to $25. Many of the employees will enjoy a snack or even a card of thanks to them. If you have a curbside mailbox, please make sure nothing is blocking it so they can keep on moving along. If your mailbox is on your porch, make sure the path to get there, from the structure to the landscaping is kept clear and safe. Put threatening animals in a safe place so the carrier isn’t in danger, and please let your carrier know if your address changes.
Here’s a few tips you might not know, nothing can go in your mailbox or on your mailbox that the carrier didn’t put there. So, please, when giving your friends directions to “just put it in the mailbox” know the mail carrier is tasked with bringing the item back to the post office. If you’re one of those who sends odd- shaped mail, or wonder exactly how many stamps it requires, there are scales available for purchase at the post office.
If you catch the post office early in the morning, you can find clerks dispersing mail at 5:45am. Your mail person comes in around 8am where they sort their mail to best suit their route. They check their vehicle to make sure everything is in working order. They sort their packages, put it all in order and then pack it up in their vehicle according to their route. They do all this within an hour and then they hit their route. The routes have been evaluated, the post office is so streamlined it knows how long it will take a carrier to deliver their wares, even down to the second. Sometimes there will be longer days or shorter days than the norm. If a carrier feels it’s going to take longer than typical the deliveries are analyzed and when an assistant becomes available, they will help deliver the route. If a carrier has a particularly light day, they willingly offer to help another carrier out.
Your post office is a finely tuned operation. From retail to letters, to Amazon to even election flyers, the day they get from Tallahassee, is the day you also get it. Enjoy these folks in your neighborhood, they are treasures and a resource of all sorts of good things. As far as Rickayla is concerned the post office will continue to get better and better by the day. She has a huge job, and she has some huge folks helping her achieve it. Americus and Sumter County are lucky to have her in our corner. She is lucky to have two daughters, ages 25 and 21, and a granddaughter aged 1 all supporting her along the way. Next time you’re in the post office, give a thank you and know there is a woman behind it all that wants you to have a wonderful experience!