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Long wait over: Female Auburn postmaster takes charge

Becky Chandler a Roseville native who most recently served in Porterville post office
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A female postmaster isn’t a rarity with the U.S. Postal Service any longer, but it has been in Auburn. New Postmaster Becky Chandler is only the second in Auburn postal service history dating back nearly 160 years. And she’s the first female postmaster since Mattie Shepard in the early part of the 20th century. Chandler took over postmaster duties in September and will be officially installed Oct. 27. The 10 a.m. ceremony will be hosted by Sacramento District Manager Jim McBroom at the 371 Nevada Street post office. Chandler previously served five years as Porterville postmaster before jumping at the chance to return to Placer County, where she was born and raised. “I was surprised when I learned that I am only the second,” Chandler said. “Today, there are a lot of female postmasters.” Auburn has had an official post office since July 1853, when Old Town’s Station A was established in a town still in the midst of a Gold Rush. Newspaper accounts of the time indicate the post office may have been handling mail in Auburn at least two years before that. J.F. Bailey was the first in a long line of male postmasters – 15 to be exact – before Mattie Shepard was appointed the city’s first female postmaster. Records from the postal service show that was in 1914. She served until 1922. A Journal article about her husband, Willard Shepard, stated that Mattie ran the East Auburn post office while Willard ran Station A. In those days, postmasters were political appointees. Mattie was known around town as the “Doll Lady” because she made dolls dressed in old-fashioned clothes that were given to children at the annual Old Town Christmas party. Chandler oversees a much bigger postal operation today, with 21 city routes and 20 rural routes. Based out of the Nevada Street post office, the postal service employs about 85 people in Auburn. After a month on the job, Chandler said she’s impressed. “This is a great office,” she said. “The people here are good, team players. Everyone is working together to get the mail to the customer. It makes my job easy." Chandler grew up in Roseville, attending Oakmont High School. “I always wanted to be a mail carrier – getting exercise every day and having everybody happy to see you,” Chandler said. When her son was three, Chandler took the postal service test, scored high and went into mail carrying. That start in 1985 led to management posts 15 years ago in the Central Valley. Chandler said she likes the sense of history Auburn has, particularly with the continuing presence of Station A in Old Town. The station has been in continuous operation in the same location since 1853. She recalled that she’s worked in historical post offices in Santa Cruz and Visalia. The Santa Cruz post office still has the original boilers. Now living in Loomis, Chandler said the move has allowed her to be closer to family. She hopes to continue as postmaster in Auburn until she retires. “I’ve been trying to get back here for a while,” Chandler said. “I loved Auburn and jumped on the opportunity to be here. It’s where I want to be.” Lesley Ginestra, window clerk at the Auburn post office, said Chandler has shown a lot of energy in a demanding job. “She’s observant and organized,” Ginestra said. “She’s someone who will be good for the community.” ---------------------- Fast facts: New Auburn Postmaster Becky Chandler Family: Husband Elliot Bettis is retired. Two adult children, Michael and Jessica. Michael is a postal service employee and Jessica is a college student Philosophy: “I believe in hard work. With that you’ll go far. And teamwork. That’s the recipe for success” Mindfulness: Enjoys hatha yoga One thing people don’t know about her: “I’m extremely shy” Book strategy: Reads mostly mysteries, classics, science fiction and vampire novels. She reads best-seller lists and then requests them on the library Internet service