Kathy Almendarez, Payson's postmaster since 1993, is the National League of Postmasters' Postmaster of the Year for Arizona.
She was presented the award during the annual state convention held in Payson during the Rodeo-Chediski Fire this summer.
She said the award is primarily presented for outstanding service to fellow postmasters. So, next year the award may have to be shared.
During the postmasters' convention, when they were not at convention programs, about 20 postmasters from all over the state were working in the Payson post office helping Almendarez and her staff get the mail out. The Payson office was not only delivering to Payson residents, but also to all the evacuees from Heber, Overgaard and Forest Lakes. And if the evacuees were staying elsewhere, like Holbrook, Almendarez and her staff collected it, bundled it and hand forwarded it.
"It is a real neat award because your peers vote for the winner," she said.
The Arizona Postmaster of Year award is not the first honor bestowed on Almendarez for her service. For the past two years, she and her staff at the Payson post office have been presented the Western Area Pride and Excellence Award. And she expects they will win it again this year.
The award is for attaining all their goals for budget, service and safety in an outstanding manner, Almendarez explained.
She cannot say enough about the people who work with her at the Payson post office.
"What makes or breaks a post office is its employees," she said. "The people here have great pride in what they do and a great work ethic. It is a joy to come to work with them everyday."
There are more challenges in the postal business than there have been in the past, she said. Among them are the growth in the community and all the changes in the postal system over the last few years.
"Automation has had a big impact," she said.
There is also a lot more competition than there has been in the past.
"We are all working to give the best service we can. Service is our top priority," Almendarez said.
Outside of her work at the post office, Almendarez said she enjoys hiking and reading. Her favorites are mysteries and other fiction that "take your mind off everyday things."
She is very active with the Kiwanis Club, but, above all, her family comes first.
Almendarez and her husband have five children between them and she has three grandchildren, with another on the way.
"I'm getting close to retirement, so I would like more time with my grandchildren and the rest of the family," she said. "I want to watch them grow and be a part of their lives. Family means a lot to me."
Still, she spends nine to 10 hours a day on the job, so much of her energy and focus remains with her work at the post office.
"My goal, our goal, has always been and will always be to give people the best possible service we can. I have an open-door policy and a staff that goes the extra mile for people, especially Lori Shewey. She is an outstanding supervisor of customer service," she said. "Hearing from people around town, I never hear complaints about the post office, I always get compliments about our staff."
Name: Kathleen Almendarez
Employer: U.S. Postal Service
Family: Husband, five children between us, three grandchildren
Personal motto: Always treat people the way you would like to be treated
Inspiration: The retired postmaster of Sun City, Ariz., Helen Kennedy. She always had such a positive attitude.
My favorite hobby is: hiking.
The person in history I'd most like to meet is: John F. Kennedy.
Luxury defined: Time
Dream vacation spot: South Pacific.
Why Payson? It's the best of all worlds with great people, wonderful climate and beautiful country.