INDEPENDENCE -- She's been a familiar face behind the counter of the Independence Post Office for the past 23 years. Next week, Sue Burge will be calling it a career as she officially retires as postmaster.
"I'm not sad because I've worked for so many years I guess I don't believe it, yet," she said with a laugh. "Maybe on the actual day (March 31), I will be sad."
Doug Marshall, the current Falls City postmaster, will take over for Burge on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is hired.
Burge, 54, said she had been contemplating retirement for a couple of years to spend more time with her family. When the post office offered her an early out, Burge said she felt "it was time."
"I've actually got the first (post-retirement) day planned," she said. "I have a daughter getting married and I'm going to a fitting with her for a wedding dress."
A Portland native, Burge moved to Salem with her husband during the early 1970s. Initially hoping to pursue a teaching degree in Monmouth, she got a job as a clerk at a Salem post office in 1973 to make ends meet. She ended up in other fields for a few years and was a Salem postal supervisor until being hired as Independence postmaster in 1986.
The 1960s era building she works in hasn't changed much, but the profession has, Burge said. Her employees no longer have to sort mail into its "route order" -- the order in which it travels -- or write every forwarding address by hand.
What thankfully hasn't changed much is the interaction with customers. With a relatively small staff, Burge puts in a lot of time at the front counter.
"I know a lot of people, but I'm bad with names," she said. "But you give me an address, and I can usually figure out who you are."
People who came into the post office for tours as elementary school students are now grown, with kids of their own, she said. Patrons will update them on their families, divorces and other subjects.
"I feel like a bartender," she chuckled. "Everybody is coming in to tell me their stories."
Burge said she would like to get involved in some of the local programs she has been a part of in the past -- such as the Central Panther Club -- though she may not have too much free time in retirement.
"My son is an executive with the Boy Scouts," she said. "He hired me to run a camp this summer."