Soldotna's busy post office has a new master.
Margaret Merrill was sworn in Tuesday morning during a cookie and juice reception in the inner lobby of the post office, with employees and customers pausing to witness the event.
Merrill takes over the postmaster duties after performing the same job for seven years in Barrow. Before that, she was a clerk in Wasilla and a letter carrier and supervisor in Anchorage.
She replaces Phyllis Torwick, who retired earlier this year after 15 years as the Soldotna postmaster.
Post Office Operations Manager Geno Castignetti of Anchorage swore in Merrill.
"If you do not repeat the oath without a mistake, we're sending you back to Barrow," Castignetti joked.
In her acceptance speech, Merrill said she is committed to increased training to help reduce the frequent and interminable waiting lines the office is known for.
"I'll be doing training with part-time flex employees, which will reduce the lines in any season, but especially tourist season," she said after the ceremony.
She said she applied for the Soldotna job as soon as she saw it was listed. She said she visited Soldotna many times while raising three boys in Wasilla.
"With their extracurricular school activities, I was down here all the time when they played hockey or football or soccer," she said. "Now I'm on the other side and will be rooting for local teams."
Merrill said she wants to get involved with the schools and offer tours to students.
"In this computer age, kids are forgetting how to write letters," she said.
"I want to remind them how."
Merrill also announced the promotion of Vonda Hagood as supervisor of postal operations.
"I have a good crew to work with here," she said. "I'm glad to be here. I'm very, very happy to be here."
After the ceremony, Merrill stood in the front lobby, introducing herself to every patron that came in and shaking their hands. One visitor, apparently overjoyed to see her, offered a hug instead. Merrill gladly accepted.
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