President Trump’s efforts to block Postal Service funding and the agency’s moves slowing mail delivery in the run-up to the November election have drawn extra-close attention here. So has Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general Trump appointed this year who testified before Congress twice in the past week and has pledged not to implement his cost-cutting plans until after the election.
Nalcrest residents are suspicious of both men.
“They’re just trying to get rid of the post office,” said Lilja, 65, a letter carrier in Pittsburgh for more than three decades. “And it’s a shame. We took pride in our jobs. It was a good middle-class job, and we provided a good and necessary service, and the country respects that. The president doesn’t.”
Few retirement communities in the Sunshine State cater to such a select crowd, men and women with a camaraderie born of their shared through-rain-or-shine experience. Theirs is a popular place, tucked into a still-remote corner of Polk County and surrounded by wetlands and cattle ranches. Applicants typically wait 18 months for one of the small, concrete-block “garden apartments” to become available.
“Everybody understands where you came from, what you did,” said Gloria Marshall, 70, who was a letter carrier in suburban Detroit and met her future husband, Dave, when she worked his route one day. “We’ve all got a lot of stories.”
Unlike Florida’s most famous retirement destination, the Villages, some 100 miles north, Nalcrest leans Democratic. “We’re all union members, so it’s mostly Democrats and independents,” Duane Kolaski, 69, said before a birthday party he was hosting last week. In fact, the National Association of Letter Carriers owns and operates the community.
Those political inclinations underscore residents’ distrust of the administration generally and of DeJoy in particular. His background is in logistics companies that are direct competitors of the Postal Service, and he has donated more than $2 million to the Trump campaign and Republican causes since 2016.
“It’s really bad what Trump is doing,” said Kolaski, a retired letter carrier from Royal Oak, Mich. “He brought in DeJoy, that crony of his, and he’s trying to put it all in a bad light.”
Many in Nalcrest vote by mail and say the president is doing a disservice to mail carriers and the post office by saying such votes will lead to the election being rigged. “That’s just wrong. I trust the mail 100 percent,” Kolaski said. “Look at the military — that’s all they do is vote by mail. And it’s awesome.”
Trump has twice used the vote-by-mail option since he became a registered voter in Palm Beach County in October. However, a courier picked up ballots for the president and first lady from the local elections office, then brought them back to be tallied.
In pre-pandemic times here, activities packed the calendar. “We had softball teams, and every month there was a food game, and people would go out and grill burgers,” said Dave Marshall, 72. “We had pickle ball and bocce ball. We always had bingo, and card games, and we’d get a huge turnout for trivia.”
Fun has been replaced by worry, including about the agency where most residents spent entire careers. The Marshalls and their neighbors acknowledge that the Postal Service is in a financial bind, with a $13 billion revenue shortfall predicted when the fiscal year ends in September. Many blame the situation in part on lawmakers’ decision in 2006 to require the agency to pre-fund 75 years of retiree health benefits.
“Why don’t they ask the people on the front lines for the solutions, the letter carrier?” Lilja suggested. “That would solve the problem. But the letter carrier isn’t allowed to speak, out of fear of retribution.”
Residents keep up with post office news through their union’s publication, the Postal Record. Union leader Fredric V. Rolando wrote in this month’s issue about why Americans should have confidence in voting by mail.
“The Federalist Papers, essays drafted to convince the states to ratify the Constitution, were disseminated through the Post Office,” Rolando noted. “Absentee voting began during the Civil War, with the votes of union soldiers far from home securing the reelection of Abraham Lincoln.”
Dick Kastner was a letter carrier in Michigan for 13 years after teaching middle school for 15. He and his wife, Diana, moved to Nalcrest in 2016. This fall, both again will vote by mail.
Americans “should trust the Postal Service, absolutely,” the 86-year-old retiree said. “The mail will get where it’s supposed to go.”