Conner: ‘This ain’t a bad gig’ compared to the travel
With the holiday mailing season at hand, Jasper Postmaster Greg D. Conner is approaching his one-year anniversary as the Jasper postmaster, as he started in the position on Jan. 2.
The best part about it is that he is staying in Jasper, without all the travel he has had to do across the state in a long career. Some days he probably qualified more as “special delivery” than the mail he handled.
The location he is trying to stay put at is familiar, too, as he has been around Jasper Police Office for many years. His father was also familiar with postal work.
Conner, 48, grew up in Millport, the son of Barbara Conner of Millport and the late Donald Conner. His father, who died in July, was a postmaster for 35 years and had been retired for 14 years at his death.
“My father was the last politically appointed postmaster in the state of Alabama, by Mr. Tom Bevill here in Jasper,” he said, referring to the late congressman.
Conner said his wife, Sarah, is also the postmaster in Nauvoo. His stepson, Michael Tedford, 25, is about to graduate from Auburn University-Montgomery. His daughter, Jordan Conner, 18, was in the last class at Walker High School and is in her freshman year at Auburn, with plans to go into pharmacy school — meaning his retirement may still be another 10 to 12 years away.
He attended Millport High School until the 11th-grade, and then wound up in the first graduation class from South Lamar High School in 1987. He went to Brewer State Community College for two years to play baseball and then to Auburn University, where he dislocated his elbow.
However, he graduated from Auburn in environmental engineering in 1992. “When i got out, you could start out in that field being a gofer with a consulting firm for $18,000 or $19,000. My Dad said go take the postal test. So I took it and did well with that,” he said.
Conner realized he could start out at the post office with $22,000 or $23,000 a year.
“I said, ‘I’ll do this for a year or two, then I can figure out what I can do in my other field,’” he said, staring as a part-time flexible city carrier in Jasper in 1994. “And everything else is history.”
He was a city carrier for seven years and then applied for the supervisor program. He was accepted and placed in Huntsville.
“I drove from Jasper to Huntsville back and forth for two years, 93 miles one way,” Conner said. “When I left in the morning it was dark and when I came home in the evening it was dark.”
A job came open in Jasper as a supervisor, and he took that job for two years. He then became postmaster of Cordova, and later postmaster of Northport. “That was a pretty good drive, too,” he said.
His next job was as the manager of post office operations, one of five in the state. Conner was over 115 offices from Red Bay to Alexander City.
“I’ve been officer in charge, when there is a vacancy in the office,” he said, noting that happened in Tuscaloosa, Hanceville, Oakman and Jasper.
His area was designated by the first three digits of the zip code, known as the SCF.
“Ours is 355. There are 41 offices in the 355 SCF, and Jasper is the hub. All their mail comes here and we separate it and send it downstream to them,” he said. “I had 355, 356, and 350, so I had three different SCF operations.”
He worked out of Jasper three days a week, since 355 was under his control. Then he went to Birmingham one day a week, and then he would have to travel to the other offices.
“You really don’t have much of a family life,” he said, noting work can start at 6:30 a.m. and stretch to 6:30 p.m.
Traveling to Huntsville and then being on the road as the manager of post office operation jobs meant he put in miles on his vehicle. Between those positions, he estimates he drove 250,000 miles for the post office.
“I was ready to come home, come to work and when I got off work, go back home, and that would be it,” he said. “Now I look back and I think, ‘How did I do it?’”
It was not surprising that after serving in that post for more than a decade in an interim and permanent basis, he was willing to take a step down to postmaster in Jasper.
“From where I came from working for the last 10 years, this ain’t a bad gig,” he said in his office.
Still, after all those active years, Conner said the transition has been tough at times.
“I feel like at all times I should be doing four different things,” he said. “In this job, I can finally have everything in front of me and do it. I’ll be honest, I started this job Jan. 2, and up until about the first of October, I had not unwound and settled in. It took me about that long, but I am really enjoying it.”
Thus, while other post office workers might be limping through the day with long lines of people with packages, cards, postage and other needs for the holidays, Greg D. Conner’s first Christmas as postmaster of Jasper will be just dandy — considering he can take a short ride home for supper at the end of the day.
And sometimes that type of comfort is what life is all about.
Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s news editor.