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Written by JOHN MORTON   
Wednesday, 28 June 2017 16:12

After 37 years in postal operations, including 16 years as Fredonia’s postmaster, Kris Schmit wraps it up

Kris Schmit couldn’t help but tear up a bit on Friday as she reflected upon her first day as Fredonia’s postmaster, which came 16 years ago.
“Some teachers from the high school came, and that meant so much to me,” said Schmit, a graduate of Ozaukee High School. “Did you know I was the first postmaster ever to come out of Ozaukee High School?”
Schmit retired Friday after 37 years in postal operations. She never went too far — starting first as an assistant at post offices in Port Washington, then West Bend, then Random Lake, where she spent eight years as postmaster — but her homecoming to the Fredonia post office that served her childhood Town of Saukville address was sweet nonetheless.
“I knew the area, so that helped me with my job, and I’d say I knew at least 50 percent of the people that walked in.
“I have five siblings, so most people knew at least someone from my family.”
During her 16 years, she faced many challenges — most notably the need to keep up with Fredonia’s housing growth.
“I’d say we had at least 175 new addresses come up over the years,” Schmit said.
When you run a post office in a rural area, that can be more daunting than one might think. It’s not uncommon for people to not know which post office is theirs, especially along highways A and H as they change from one township to the next.
“I’m a living example of why it can be tricky out here,” Schmit said. “I have  a Newburg phone number, I pay taxes in the Town of Fredonia and I get mail in Saukville.”
Understanding that, Schmit was proactive in trying to limit using the “return to sender” stamp for wayward mail.
“Yes, some addresses we’d see weren’t ours so I would try to contact them or even put notices in people’s mailboxes.
“I realize not getting a letter can be a disaster in certain circumstances.”
Another challenge during her tenure came two years ago, when Fredonia Avenue was torn up.
“We had to figure out where to put mailboxes after they had to come down,” she said. “We decided to group them together to make it safer for people.”
Other duties included the inspection of new subdivisions in order to formulate a delivery plan. Each year, Schmit would also accompany her carriers through an entire route.
On occasion, she’d have to throw a mailbag over her shoulder and hit the pavement when someone was sick or a crisis emerged.
“I remember it was a first Christmas Eve for a carrier and he called me to tell me he didn’t think he’d make it — he had too many parcels left. So my husband (Steve) and I jumped in our car and thankfully we had a large console,” Schmit said. “He drove while I spread everything out.
“We made it and the carrier stuck it out. He’s still here.”
Her most memorable event came in April 2008.
“I became the first drive-thru post office,” Schmit said. “A pickup truck lost control and smashed through the front of the building, all the way up to the counter where I was standing.
“It happened at 10:30 in the morning but we were back up and running by 4 p.m. We had other postmasters come help out.”
It wasn’t until August until repairs were complete, she said.
Otherwise, things were mostly calm.
“We did have a couple of carriers suffer dog bites, causing me to call the sheriff’s office, but that’s about it,” Schmit said. “One resident denied it, but then their dog went right after the deputy. So that solved that one.”
Regarding the wide range of postage stamps throughout the years, Schmit said she was happy to see the recent arrival of the most unique one of her career — the total-eclipse stamp.
“You press it and it changes color,” she said.
But nothing topped the first-edition Elvis stamp.
“That was my favorite. It was a collector’s item and it’s the most popular one we ever sold,” she said.
On Friday, much like her swearing-in ceremony 16 years ago, many old friends stopped by to present Schmit with a cake in the shape and design of a letter.
She smiled for pictures, exchanged hugs, and shed a few more tears.
What will she do in retirement?
“I have 35 to 40 books I’ve been buying that I never had the time to read,” Schmit said. “And I’ll continue to help my brother out on his dairy farm.
“But at least I’ll be down to just one job.”

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