Vineyard Haven Post Office mirrors Island change

Charlie Vincent is ready to pack his bags for Vegas following his retirement from the post office next Thursday. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

When Charlie Vincent and Jaime Leon (see related story) leave the Vineyard Haven Post Office on Thursday, Jan. 31 for the last time, they will be carrying a combined 54 years of service with them.

For Mr. Vincent, a descendant of nearly four centuries of Vincents and Mayhews on the Island, the job has roots that go back nearly 40 years.

“I started full time in 1985 but I worked as summer help back in 1973. I remember walking into the old post office on Main Street, where Rainy Day is now. That was the post office then, just down the block from Vincent’s store, where Mardell’s is now,” Mr. Vincent, 60, said in a recent interview.

Mr. Vincent has seen a lot of other changes in the U.S. Postal Service over the course of his 26 year career.

“It’s been enjoyable. I’ve worked with Jaime all these years. A nice career. I’ve worked mostly in the back room doing afternoon dispatch, sending mail to the Wareham regional distribution center, and I process the accountable (certified and registered) mail,” he said.

“The work seems the same but the largest changes are in modernization of mail movement. Just the physical automation and delivery systems have made the process more efficient. For example, we get letter mail in trays and flat tubs today. Packages come in wire cages. In the old days, letter mail was in pouches and packages came in large sacks,” he said.

“Tracking mail is so much better now, particularly for express mail and packages. People pretty much can know when it will arrive. Back in the 70’s, it was generally a case of it got there when it got there,” he said.

Mr. Vincent holds degrees in both economics (UMass-Amherst) and accounting (Bentley University) and ran a landscaping business before joining the postal service. He sees the business side of mail delivery, such as the importance of an efficient package delivery system to Islanders.

“It’s important because, being an island, we do a lot more packages than off-Island post offices do. People shop online and ship a lot more here. Off-Island, where there are the brick and mortar stores, post offices don’t get the volume of package business we get,” he said.

While the meteoric rise of Fedex and UPS in recent decades have led to dire predictions for the post office’s future, Mr. Vincent is more sanguine. “I think you’ll be seeing the Post Office for a long time,” he said, noting that both Fedex and UPS have signed agreements with the USPS to deliver packages for them.

“I see business overall improving. We are still a labor-intensive business and all companies, not just the post office, are looking for ways to get thinner, to tighten the belt. The post office made it easy for me to decide to retire. This is the first Christmas I’ve had off in 26 years, I’ll be able to enjoy the Vineyard in the summer,” he said with a laugh.

“I’m going to travel more. I like the Las Vegas area and Florida, particularly Orlando. I definitely am going to crank up the garden this year – now that I don’t have to rush off to work.”