Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bellevue postmaster steps down

Noel Hutton ends 28-year career that began in the Aleutian Islands


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Noel Hutton has worked at the Bellevue Post Office since 2003. Her retirement will be celebrated at Mahoney’s in Bellevue on Saturday, July 21. Photo by David N. Seelig

Bellevue Postmaster Noel Hutton will get a sendoff from friends and family at a retirement party thrown in her honor on Saturday, July 21, from 3-6 p.m. at Mahoney's restaurant on Main Street in Bellevue.

For eight years Hutton, 56, has greeted hundreds of people each day who come downtown to collect their mail. After a 28-year career making sure the mail gets where it's headed "rain or shine," she has plans to travel where there's more sun than snow.

"If I go anywhere I'm going south, where all I have to wear is cutoffs, flip-flops and a T-shirt," she said with a laugh.

A native of Issaquah, Wash., Hutton began her career as a mail clerk on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska in 1984.

"The town was Sand Point," she said. "We called it the middle of nowhere."

After three years, Hutton was promoted to postmaster of Sand Point, serving for another 10 years in a town that looked forward to the daily mail. It came by airplane or barge from the mainland.

"Mail was king. It was the only way to get things in or out," she said. "It was a daily service, but we could often go for a couple of weeks without a plane in winter. The worst weather in the world is in the Aleutian chain."

Hutton transferred to the Carey Post Office in 1994 to be closer to her parents in Issaquah, when her father became ill. She began commuting to Bellevue in 2003, a town she has grown to know and love.

"The best thing about the commute to Bellevue is that I don't have to go past Bellevue," she said.

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Hutton has two grown children, daughter Erin in Hailey and son Caleb, who works as a commercial fishermen in Alaska and California. She also has two grandsons.

"Andy is 10 years old and works at the Picabo Ranch with his dad. Tristan, age 12, is a computer freak—that's all he does," Hutton said.

Hutton said she lost her father years ago, but has plans to spend more time with her mother when she can.

"She just got back from a trip down the Amazon. Now that I'm retired she's forbidden from taking any trips without me," she said.

Hutton has overseen 800 post office boxes and 600 rural deliveries per day on two mail routes, including a 100-mile route that delivers to West Magic and Picabo.

She said the Bellevue Post Office also delivers UPS and FedEx packages on those routes.

"I have the best employees in the world," she said.

According to a U.S. Senate website, the U.S. Postal Service employs 500,000 workers, including 130,000 military service veterans, yet a 21 percent drop in revenue during the past five years will lead to a drop in worker hours.

Hutton said downsizing at the Bellevue Post Office over the next two years will reduce hours of operation to four to six hours per day.

"Email has changed things [replacing letter deliveries] but on the other hand, with the Internet we see a lot more packages coming through the mail," Hutton said.

Next week she will turn her duties over to new Postmaster Kathy Wetzel.

"The Bellevue Post office will be here for the foreseeable future," Hutton said.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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