The respect is what surprises Bjoern Gruetzmacher.
“As a supervisor, I could provide people with the same insight and information,” he said. “But a postmaster could say the same thing,” and people will more readily believe it.
The venerable title of a small-city postmaster carries weight, and Gruetzmacher knows this firsthand. After months of temporary supervisor gigs, he has a home in Snoqualmie—his first postmaster’s job.
A Kent resident, Gruetzmacher was chosen to replace former postmaster Bud Quinoveva 10 months ago, but he didn’t officially begin duties until May and spent much of the past year helping manage other offices on the Eastside.
Immediately prior to Snoqualmie, he supervised at Mercer Island, Maple Valley and Ravensdale post offices. In the summer, he filled in at Carnation. Considered a working postmaster, Gruetzmacher has more of a frontline, hands-on role in Snoqualmie.
Learning new things
“I’m starting to get to know the individuals in the community, the customer base. That’s nice,” Gruetzmacher said. “It’s been almost nine years since I had the ability to contact people on a daily basis.”
He praised Snoqualmie employees, Mary Abbott-Retzlaff and Yun Chang, as a wonderful team. They’re helping him learn new things.
“I’ve always prided myself (on being able) to learn anything and everything, because it always made my job more fun, to be able to do different things.”
In his years at the front desk, Gruetzmacher has learned the power of friendliness.
“Since I went into management, there’s definitely a need to approach a situation with a smile,” Gruetzmacher said. “It can certainly take what can be a difficult issue, and bring it down a bit.”
Gruetzmacher never thought he’d run an office like this, not when he started.
“I said I wasn’t going to retire from the post office,” he said. “It’s 25 years later.” He grew up in Bothell, where his mother worked as a supervisor. She convinced him to take the civil service exam in high school. At the time, Gruetzmacher wasn’t interested in further study.
“I wanted to get out of high school and just see what life was going to bring me.”
One day, he took a day off from school, drove to Kent for the test, and passed. He was hired the following March, as a clerk.
“I ended up working with carriers who used to come by when I was a teenager—with long hair, the stereo booming at my parents’ house—pounding on the door.”
On the job
Sorting mail from flat tubs for delivery to businesses, Gruetzmacher is the second-to-last human step in a chain that leads to their inbox.
Most of this mail is sorted by a machine, most recently at Redmond, soon to change to Seattle as the post office consolidates.
It’s a changing world for mail. The first-class letter, once the U.S. Post Office’s bread and butter, has gone the way of the dinosaur. Electronic diversion—e-mail—means that “something you would put a 46-cent stamp now and slip it into one of our boxes” instead goes through the electronic ether. That said, commercial mail—catalogs, promotional materials—has actually increased a bit, says Gruetzmacher, probably because it gets into people’s hands.
Notes, personal packages—mail, in short—all has meaning, says Gruetzmacher.
“It’s nice to actually receive a card, a letter,” he said. “Someone took the time to sit down and write you a letter. There’s value to that.”
Among his goals in Snoqualmie: Reorganizing and boosting the use of post office boxes among residents. About a quarter are empty.
The Snoqualmie post office has seen its share of years and floods—built during the Kennedy administration, lines marking past floods grace on wall.
However, there are no plans for any moves or shake-ups.
Nationally, change is happening as the U.S. Post Office confronts a new era. Reorganization plans could impact small offices in the future, creating remotely managed post offices run by larger ones. Snoqualmie isn’t currently slated for any such fix.
Gruetzmacher sees the post office as an important part of how people communicate.
“There’s definitely a need” for a local office, Gruetzmacher said, “particularly with the growing population we have here.”
• The Snoqualmie Post Office is located at 8264 Olmstead Ln. S.E., Snoqualmie. Call the office at (425) 888-4317.