washingtonpost.com  > Metro > Virginia > Loudoun

In Booming ZIP Codes, Carriers Needed

Leesburg, Other Towns Face Strains in Service

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 23, 2004; Page LZ05

You've seen farmland turned into $700,000 home sites.

You've seen big-box retailers rising on property only recently inhabited by wildlife.

Mark Jeffrey, 36, of Alexandria took a job last month at the Leesburg Post Office, which now has openings for eight carriers. (Photos Len Spoden For The Washington Post)

You've experienced the morning rush on the Dulles Toll Road.

But you still need proof that Northern Virginia is one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States.

Okay, then, head to the Leesburg Post Office.

"NOW HIRING RURAL CARRIERS," reads a banner outside the red brick building. "UP TO $15.22 PER HOUR."

Turns out the population in Loudoun's county seat is growing so fast that there's a shortage of rural letter carriers. In Leesburg's case, "rural" means carriers who serve the suburban neighborhoods and developments -- usually by car or truck, rather than on foot -- on the outskirts of town.

"Our service has really been hindered, and we are really, actively looking for recruits," said Tom Mettberg, customer service supervisor at Leesburg's main post office. "We have been target-mailing the Leesburg area for recruits. We have also advertised on the radio and put these banners all over town. And it's still difficult to find carriers."

As Northern Virginia grows, so does the number of mail deliveries. Loudoun has the fastest-growing population, by percentage, of any county in the United States.

"Getting mail is not really optional," said Deborah Yackley, who manages the U.S. Postal Service's public affairs center for the Washington region.

Yackley said there are carrier shortages in Ashburn, Hamilton and other towns in Loudoun and across Northern Virginia. But she called Leesburg a "very prime example" of how the region's growth has strained the postal service.

"Leesburg is growing so fast we're adding about five routes a year. That's about 2,500 new addresses and 2,500 new deliveries," she said. "Right now, we need a minimum of eight more rural carriers, which really means about 16 because the turnaround rate is that high -- 50 percent."

About half the recruits don't stay long because carrying mail isn't a job for everyone, Yackley said.

"It is very difficult to learn a route," she said. "You have to learn: This address belongs to such-and-such a person and so forth. It's a little difficult, and some people have a very hard time with it. . . . And there's always the challenge of being outside in the elements.

CONTINUED    1 2    Next >

© 2004 The Washington Post Company