Stalder retires from post office

Ron Burtz
After 40 years of working for the U.S. Postal Service, Larry Stalder is looking forward to spending more time with his family this Christmas. Stalder, who has been Custer’s postmaster since 1988, is retiring at the beginning of December. 
“I’ve been so busy for 40 years,” said Stalder on Friday as he sat in his office adjoining the post office lobby. “I haven’t spent a real Christmas with my family for 40 years, so this year I will get a chance to do that.” 
Stalder said many Christmases over the years were spent working, finishing up tasks like delivering express mail on Christmas Day. 
Growing up in Deadwood from about the age of 10, Stalder went to work for the Postal Service as a mail carrier in that Northern Hills community in 1978. After about five years he took a job as superintendent of postal operations (a now defunct position) in Lead. 
Then in 1988, he applied for and was offered his choice of three open postmaster positions and decided to come to Custer. He came planning to stay two years.
“Obviously we’ve been here longer than two years,” grinned Stalder. 
Stalder said he considers himself lucky to have been able to come to Custer. Looking back over 30 years here, he said he has no regrets, adding that there are many “great people here in Custer” and that it was a “great place to raise a family.”
He said early in their marriage he and his wife, Janice, spent a short stint in Phoenix, Ariz. Needing to come back to the Black Hills because his father was ill, Stalder said they had every intention of going back, but ended up staying here. 
“Looking back, it’s way better here than in the big cities,” said Stalder. 
The Stalders have two grown sons, Dustin and Kobee, who went through the Custer school system and later graduated from South Dakota State University. Kobee is visitor services program manager for Custer State Park and Dustin is a radio announcer for a group of radio stations in Brookings.  
In his four decades with the post office, Stalder said he has seen many changes, but none more earth-shaking than the advent of computers and the internet. 
“When I started with the postal service, there wasn’t such a thing as computers and now I would say 80 to 90 percent of my job is right over there,” he said pointing to a computer screen and keyboard across the room. “It’s changed the postal service a lot. You can just generate reports after reports after reports.” 
In addition to adding to his load of paperwork (make that “computer work”), Stalder said the advent of the internet has profoundly changed his workload because of emails and online shopping. 
He said he now spends up to two hours just answering the up to 100 emails he receives each day, which he says is “too many.”
“Some of them you can delete, but a lot of them you have to answer,” he said. 
Ironically, Stalder said the growth of competition from alternative shipping methods has actually increased the post office’s workload. 
Shippers like Amazon, UPS and FedEx have contracted with the postal service to deliver packages “the last mile” to their final destination. 
“They drop packages at the post office and then we deliver them,” said Stalder. “That has increased our workload a lot.”
With Amazon coming on board last year, Stalder said, “That was probably the busiest Christmas I have ever had since I’ve been with the postal service.”
Modern technology has also increased the postmaster’s workload by allowing him to manage three other small post offices in Hermosa, Fairburn and Pringle. He said, because of email and the internet, he is able to oversee them without having to physically travel there that often, but he makes it clear the additional responsibility was not by his choice. 
Although the post office has kept Stalder quite busy over the years, he still managed to get involved in the community, serving about 15 years on the YMCA board and coaching both youth baseball and basketball. 
Stalder said retirement is not really something he has looked forward to with anticipation, but noted that the fast and furious changes in the postal system are a part of his reason for walking away at this time. 
“It’s changed a lot,” said Stalder, who also said he is “maxed out” in terms of possibility of advancement within the postal service. “You know when it’s time to move on.”
He also said whenever he would pass the service window of the post office over the last five years “people kept asking me when I was gonna retire, so then you start thinking about it.”
One thing Stalder will obviously miss about working at the post office is the relationships with the eight people he has supervised there the past few years.
He gets emotional when he says, “I’ve had great employees...They mean a lot to you.” 
When asked about his post-retirement plans, Stalder was noncommittal. 
“Well, I’m gonna go from working too many hours to not enough,” he said smiling, adding that he is going to have to find some things to keep him busy. 
Speaking of son Kobee’s three children, Stalder laughs, “I’ll bug the grandkids until they get old enough they can’t stand me anymore.” 
While suggesting he has retirement job opportunities awaiting him, Stalder said he wants to sit back for a while and consider his options. Janice plans to retire from her job at  Custer County Library next spring, but that doesn’t mean the couple will hit the road or head south for the winter. Stalder suggests they plan to stay right here in the community they’ve called home for 30 years. 
Stalder’s official retirement date is Dec. 2, but he notes that unless something else happens, his last actual day on the job will probably be Black Friday. 

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