Du Quoin postmaster calls it a career Steve Dinkins retires after 41 years
Steve Dinkins has his mom to thank for getting him started on what would be a 41-year career with the U.S. Postal Service -- the final eight as postmaster in Du Quoin.
A Du Quoin kid through and through, Dinkins graduated from Du Quoin Township High School in 1975. In 1979 he was 22 and working at Phelps Dodge when his mother made an announcement.
"My mom told me, 'You're going to Carbondale to take the postal test,'" Dinkins recalls. "She signed me up."
Dinkins took the test and before long he had been hired as a substitute rural carrier out of the Du Quoin Post Office. On Feb. 9, 1980 he was hired as a full-time rural carrier -- a date that stays with him as the moment he realized he didn't just have a job, he had a career.
That career ended Friday, when Dinkins left work for the last time. Kimberly Wingerter, the Christopher postmaster, has moved into place as the temporary Du Quoin postmaster. The postal service won't make a decision on Dinkins' replacement until Dec. 1, 2020, because that is the technical last day of his employment.
As postmasters go, he is among the most well-known, and his retirement is being celebrated throughout Du Quoin.
Dinkins delivered rural mail until 2005 when there was an opening in Tamaroa for postmaster. He got that job; then in 2007 was named postmaster of Christopher.
In 2012, the big time beckoned and Dinkins was named the Du Quoin postmaster. He was thrilled to come home.
"For me to come back to Du Quoin was a rarity," he says. "It turns out I had to leave the office to advance, and to come back."
As postmaster, Dinkins took over a facility that was persistently rumored to be closing. Instead, around 2015 Du Quoin became the first post office in southern Illinois to be a test site for Amazon.com package delivery.
Every day, an Amazon truck would arrive, filled with packages that all had to be delivered by 3 p.m.
"We got it done," Dinkins says. "And the next year they expanded it to all the offices my size."
Before Amazon, packages had trickled in. "The whole office wouldn't have as many packages as one of my routes has today," he added. "And we have 11 routes."
"It's keeping the doors open," Dinkins says. The Du Quoin office has added another partial rural route to help them handle the business; and they've adjusted other routes.
He said he wouldn't want to work in a bigger post office, and believes the Du Quoin office is good for at least another 40 years.
What gave him the most joy about his job?
"The people," he says without a pause. "I've worked with some of these people since they were brand new, and some of them I hired."
Being genuinely interested in people is a bonus for a postmaster, he says. "It was an advantage to have carried, to have worked on the craft side, for so many years," he added.
"I made it may point to learn the every job of anybody who worked for me. I've carried mail, worked the window and cleaned the bathroom,"
Today's post office is more computer work and less floor work, he says.
"There has been dramatic changes in the way computers have taken over." Dinkins said. "We used to spend hours being a bookkeeper, with logs and books. Now it takes a few minutes."
Dinkins encourages people "all the time" to take the postal exam. "You are limited only by how much effort you want to put out," he says. "You start at the bottom and work your way up. I got my job in Tamaroa by being in the right spot, and asking about it. Everything is internal."