On Dec. 20, 1980, Arlene Spencer started her job at the Lincoln City Post Office. Now after over 40 years, Spencer, the current Neotsu postmaster will be retiring.
Over the years, Spencer has worked in post offices up and down the Oregon Coast, from Siletz to Pacific City and out to Willamina and Sheridan for a while. In 1987, she took over her current role as Neotsu postmaster, and over five years ago, Spencer also began overseeing operations at the Otis Post Office as well.
“When you start working for the postal service and you are dedicated to it, it’s very active,” Spencer said of her career. “If you want hours and work, this is the job for you.”
Over the years, Spencer has not only been a dedicated postal worker. She’s also been very active within her community as a member of the Kiwanis Club, Girl Scouts and Elks Lodge. Her commitment to her community and work has been awarded with multiple awards such as Women of the Year, Kiwanian of the Year, multiple postmaster awards and becoming a Girl Scout leader and trainer.
“This is a wonderful place to live, I just love the people here,” Spencer said. “I think retirement will be hard for me because I’ve been so connected to this community.”
Spencer will be officially retired on April 9. She will soon be moving to her recently purchased place in Salem after a challenging year in which she lost her home to the Echo Mountain Complex fire.
Left with nothing but the clothes on her back, Spencer said it was an emotional time not only for her but for her community. And even in the face of tragedy, Spencer was thinking of others during the aftermath of the wildfires.
“One of the advantages of me losing my house is that when I went over to the Lincoln City Post Office for a while and over 300 Otis residents had to get their mail from there and it was challenging,” Spencer said. “They were frustrated, upset and emotions were very high. But I was able to relate to those people, I told them, ‘I’m right there with you,’ and their whole attitude seemed to change.”
“In the Otis area at least, I think this has really brought people back together. More people are helping each other out and putting things back together.”
Spencer said although she has oftentimes felt uncomfortable asking others for help, she has receive much support from her neighbors, friends and co-workers who have donated things like work clothes that she had lost. That neighborly support has been a big reason why she has spent much of her life on the coast.
“We have some of the best customers in the world that come here,” Spencer said. “It’s like a big family. Being her 40 years, I think the hardest thing about the job is you get to know these people so well and when they go through things like losing a family member, I take it really hard. That’s the only thing I don’t like.”
Along with the fires, Spencer said the COVID-19 pandemic has also provided challenges for the community, the postal service included. Spencer said she’s had to break up fights in the post office and resolve several other conflicts as a result of the virus protocols.
However, post offices up and down the coast have been able to lean on each other, as Spencer said she has networked with other postmasters on a daily bases to adjust to lack of staffing and coordinating deliveries when online order is at an all-time high.
“Some postal workers put in 15-18 hour days and then all the carriers work so hard delivering all the mail,” Spencer said. “Everybody has been going online and ordering from Amazon and other big companies, but I see a bright future coming for the postal service as we’ve learned a lot this year.”
Spencer figures the Neotsu Post Office will likely draw a lot of interest as they look for a postmaster to fill her big role. But as for her, Spencer will be adjusting to the retirement life and may take up designing and sewing clothes, which had been a passion of hers.
“I’m not sure how well I’ll do in retirement,” Spencer said. “This has been my life and it has been a good life.”
When asked about some of her fondest memories, Spencer said everyday she creates a new one.