Michael Hovey has served as postmaster at the Waterloo post office for almost 21 years, but he will soon end his decades-long career in government service when he retires Friday.
“It’s been a great career,” Hovey said. “I feel very fortunate and grateful that I’ve been able to do what I’ve done with the United States Postal Service.”
Hovey’s career as a government worker began in 1977 when he worked in personnel management/computer operations for the Air Force.
Six years later, he got his first job in the postal business as a city letter carrier in St. Louis and Edwardsville.
“It was a career opportunity with many possibilities,” Hovey said as to why he got into the industry. “It was a highly regarded government job that provided good services and provided great benefits.”
From 1986 to 1997, Hovey worked in a variety of roles in Edwardsville and Valley Park, Mo. During that time, Hovey also put himself through night school at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville before obtaining a business degree after 6.5 years of work. Then, on Oct. 11, 1997, he found the post office he would call home for two decades.
“My best assignment has been here in Waterloo,” Hovey said. “Waterloo is an outstanding community of businesses and residents. The employees at the Waterloo post office are a very dedicated and passionate group of postal employees.”
Hovey said he applied for the job of Waterloo postmaster after completing a temporary assignment at the post office as an officer in charge.
“I was here for a few months and I really enjoyed the office and the community, so I applied for it,” he recalled. “Thankfully, I received the postmaster appointment.”
As Waterloo postmaster, Hovey, 58, is in charge of the entire post office. He is also responsible for the postal services in Valmeyer, Fults and Maeystown. He grew up in Illinois, but he calls Fenton, Mo. home now. Although he has a 60-mile commute to work in Waterloo each day, he said his job has always made it worth it.
“This is an outstanding community and group of employees,” he said. “That’s why I’ve remained here all this time.”
Hovey has spent so much time in Waterloo that he is the postmaster with the second longest tenure at the office, behind only Otis Lutz, who served 26 years.
“I’m extremely proud to have been able to serve this office for nearly 21 years and to be a part of this office for that amount of time,” Hovey said.
Throughout that long career, Hovey has worked temporary special assignments such as one that brought him to Waterloo and conducting audits at other post offices.
One of the highlights of his career, however, came just outside his own post office. On Oct. 19, 1999, when the post office was at 301 E. Fourth Street, the old Waterloo school building beside the post office was being demolished. Postal employees were outside the building as a safety precaution, which proved necessary when a wall from the school collapsed on the west wall and roof of the post office.
“That’s something that very few postmasters or postal employees can tell that story,” Hovey said with a laugh.
The post office spent the next six months at 740 N. Market Street. As the new building, located at 305 E. Third Street, was being constructed, the post office then temporarily set up shop at 409 Lakeview Drive. Finally, on Oct. 21, 2002, the current building opened.
“It was very exciting to have a new building built in this community close to downtown and the local businesses,” Hovey remembered.
Hovey said throughout his career there have also been challenges, like moving the post office overnight, dealing with inclement weather and meeting postal growth and new residences in this area. Through it all, Hovey said his employees have been one of the best parts of his job as he has seen them grow.
“That’s been a highlight: being able to see people progress and stay with the job,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed that.”
In fact, Hovey said his co-workers are one of the aspects of his job he will miss the most.
“I’m going to miss the people, which includes my employees and serving the community,” he said. “That’s going to be difficult. I’ve spent over two decades with these people. I’ve seen and heard about some of their kids growing up, seen some become grandparents and had daily interaction with each employee. I’ll miss the interaction with the employees.
“I will also miss the responsibility of being a postmaster every day.”
Hovey said he is still looking forward to his retirement from 40 years of government service, however, and has already made plans to travel and play golf.
“This job can be demanding at times, so I’m looking forward to being able to catch up on some things I like to do like golfing and traveling,” he said. “The idea of treating every day like a Saturday is very appealing.”
The post office must go through a hiring process for Hovey’s replacement, so one has not been designated yet.