Postal Service With a Smile

Local Mail Carriers & The Heart Behind What They Do

Photography by Rich Smith

Getting a letter or a package from a friend or loved one is always a joyful experience – nothing beats checking the mailbox to find a surprise waiting! These happy moments are made possible by USPS mail carriers, who work hard each day to deliver countless letters and packages to our residents.

Here, we’re highlighting five local mail carriers who give new meaning to the phrase “service with a smile.” From striking up pleasant conversations with new residents to helping lost dogs get back home, these local men and women go above and beyond for Chattanooga every day. Read on to learn more about the heart behind their stellar service.

Mark KuhnMark Kuhm USPS Worker

Postal worker for 18 years

 

Do you have a favorite area along your route?

I love delivering on Minnekahda Road because of the views of Chattanooga and the river as you climb in elevation. I even see bald eagles up there occasionally.

Do you have any funny stories from routes over the years?

Once, I was delivering a package to a business, and when I walked in the office, a young woman immediately asked me, “Is that package for me?” I replied, “I don’t know who you are!” She then said, “What’s in the package?” I said, “It’s an Amazon box. What did you order?” Guess the business? CityScope!

What is your favorite thing about this career?

I love that people appreciate getting their mail, and at the end of the day, I know I have provided a service that helps them.

You’re a big part of people’s lives every day, but especially during the holiday season. Aside from the increased workload, is delivering holiday mail special for you in any way?

On those last days before Christmas, you know that every package really counts and that your customers are waiting anxiously for them. To be honest, I really do feel like Santa’s helper at that time of year.

Is there a type of package or letter that puts a smile on your face when you deliver it?

The packages that are decorated by kids and sent to their grandparents always make me happy to deliver. And the letters labeled to grandparents – Pappy, Gramma, Memaw, Poppy – always make me smile, probably because I am a grandfather now.

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Madondra Whitemadondra white postal usps worker

Postal Worker for five years

 

Do you have a favorite area along your route? What makes delivering in this area special for you?

North Palisades Road is my favorite because I get to enjoy the view of Chattanooga from above.

Can you tell us about your most memorable moment on route?

The day one of the dogs on my route got out of his fence line. I was able to put him in the back of my truck and get him back home, and I’m glad that I was able to assist his mom. She was pretty worried about her fur baby!

Do you have any funny stories from routes over the years?

When I started carrying mail in San Diego, we’d sometimes assist other carriers with their routes. This one carrier was new and always forgot to close her rear door. I went to help her, although I didn’t know where she was, but on this day she had some red plums in her truck. Let’s just say I was able to use them as bread crumbs to find her!

You’re a big part of people’s lives every day, but especially during the holiday season. Aside from the increased workload, is delivering holiday mail special for you in any way?

Yes, I love when kids see me coming and they run to meet me at the box, wondering what I have for them. They help me and their moms out!

What motivates you to get through the big delivery days?

Knowing that what I have in my truck will brighten someone’s day.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I just want to thank all our customers for the support and bearing with us through these tough times.

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Kevin Murrykevin Murry usps worker
Postal Worker for 23 years

 

Can you tell us about your most memorable moment on route?

In 2012, I became very ill, and it took seven months for me to return to my route. Over the years, I have made many good friends among the fellow carriers, clerks, truck drivers, and supervisors. Same thing has happened on my route – sometimes strangers become acquaintances and end up being friends. I usually enjoy each of these groups separately, but on my first day back, one of my favorite supervisors, Chris Quinn, got to accompany me on my route and witness the hugs and share the love of my return.

What motivates you to get through the big delivery days?

That’s a simple question with a deep answer. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a mother who never quits, and this attitude was strengthened by my teachers and coaches.

Are there any common misconceptions about this job?

What would you like more people to know?
Well, my first thought is about my personal misconception. When I was hired, I thought I’d hit the jackpot. Memories of our mailman pulling up to our house, handing me my mother’s mail and a lollipop filled my mind. I actually went by Kennedy Concessions and bought a bag of Dum Dums for my first day after the carrier academy.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I’m really proud of our diversity at the United States Postal Service. It’s the only place I’ve ever worked where management positions are equally split between males and females. Our workforce includes all colors, orientations, and religions.

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Jim StarryJim Starry Usps mail worker
Postal Worker for nearly 37 years

 

Can you tell us about your most memorable moment on route?

I’ll never forget when 9/11 happened. I remember a strong bond I had with my customers. So many of us talked and prayed together. Sometimes a tragedy does bring you closer together.

Have you made any friends (animals or people!) along your routes over the years?

Oh yes! I’ve made hundreds of great friendships over the years, most with my customers, but many four-legged ones as well.

What is your favorite thing about this career?

That’s easy – my customers and my coworkers!

Do you have any funny stories from routes over the years?

Yes. One year for my wife’s birthday, I asked my customers to text-bomb her with happy birthday messages. And throughout the day, over 150 of them did!

You’re a big part of people’s lives every day, but especially during the holiday season. Aside from the increased workload, is delivering holiday mail special for you in any way?

Oh yes. Even though the workload is tough, I like to joke around telling people I’m one of Santa’s helpers.

What motivates you to get through the big delivery days?

Having a heart that believes this is the perfect job for me. Now that I’ve been in a long time, I’m sometimes a go-to person when some of my coworkers have questions about the job. I guess I feel like a dad to a lot of them!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I’m very thankful that I fall under the small percentage of people who love what they do for a living! It’s all about the people!

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Wes Hickswes hicks usps mail carrier
Postal Worker for 19 years

 

Do you have a favorite area along your route? What makes delivering in this area special for you?

I love my whole area. It’s where I grew up and where I currently live.

Can you tell us about your most memorable moment on route? What makes that moment stand out in your mind?

I am a dog lover, and on many occasions, I have found lost dogs and have been able to bring them back home. They love to take a ride!

Have you made any friends (animals or people!) along your routes over the years?

I’ve been on my route for many years, and my customers are amazing! I know a lot of their life stories. They are all my friends.

How did you adjust to driving on the right side of a car? What was that experience like for you at first?

It came very easily to me. I lived in Okinawa, Japan, for a year when I was in the military, so it became very natural.

What is your favorite thing about this career?

Working with people and taking care of the community I live in.

Is there a type of package or letter that puts a smile on your face when you pick it up?

I love when children bring me “Dear Santa” letters!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Thank you to all of the other carriers who do an outstanding job day in and day out.

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