Perfect name for the job: Amy Letter sworn in as new postmaster in Arcata

Murals from Eureka federal courthouse now on display in McKinleyville, honored on new stamps


Amy Letter was sworn in as the newest postmaster for Arcata on Tuesday afternoon in McKinleyville and she does not miss the appropriateness of her name for her new title.

“My big joke is I’m third-generation (postal worker) and 20 years in the post office, but I’m the one who took it the most serious because I’m a Letter,” she said after the swearing-in ceremony at the federal courthouse in McKinleyville.

She was sworn in by her mother, Rita Johnson, the retired postmaster for the Carlotta post office.

But mom, who wrote out the oath ahead of time, tried to swear her in using her maiden name.

“I, Amy K. Johnson …” Rita Johnson began, while her father and a few others shouted from the galley of the courthouse, “Letter.”

“I, Amy K. Johnson Letter,” Letter said, repeating the oath to the sound of clapping and a few chuckles.

Letter said her family has a long history of postal service, from her mother who started as a custodian and worked her way up to her grandfather who delivered the mail in Rio Dell. Combined, she and her family have seven decades of service.

Amy Letter, left, and her supervisor Maria Lane pose in front of a newly installed mural that originally hung in the former Eureka federal courthouse. Letter was sworn in as the Arcata postmaster on Tuesday. (US Postal Service — Contributed)

Maria Lane, Letter’s direct supervisor who oversees post office operations from the Oregon border to Cloverdale, was effusive about Letter’s qualifications.

“This choice was easy,” said Lane. “She cares about her customers and employees. And she cares about the institution of the postal service.”

Lane also said she’s a math whiz.

“She’s technically smart,” said Lane. “She can look at the numbers, dissect them, and come back with a formula.”

Letter, a Fortuna resident, is looking forward to serving residents to the north of her home. As postmaster, she will serve more than 18,000 residents, manage 55 employees and oversee the daily delivery of an estimated 66,000 pieces of mail.

“I’m grateful to serve the communities of Arcata, McKinleyville and Samoa,” she said.

Arcata Police Chief Brian Ahearn was on hand for the swearing-in of Letter to “show my support.”

“The post office is right there in downtown Arcata,” said Ahearn. “We want to make sure they’re safe and the post office is secure.”

Also Tuesday afternoon, several murals were unveiled inside the courthouse. But the murals were hardly new. The vertical displays date back to 1936 when artist Thomas Laman created them and they were hung in the Eureka federal building that shared space with the post office until 2002.

“We’re excited to display the murals,” said federal Judge Robert Illman, noting, “There is not a ton known about the murals or the artist himself.”

“Because the court and the post office enjoyed a marriage of sorts in Eureka, it’s exciting it’s here,” he added.

Local post office locations are selling “forever” stamps that commemorate some of the more than 1,000 murals made between 1934 and 1943 at post offices across the country.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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