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Polensky comes on as Dickinson’s new postmaster

Press Photo by Katherine Lymn Dickinson Postmaster Wendy Key Polensky answers a call in her office at the Dickinson Post Office on Wednesday.

Signed, sealed, delivered: Dickinson has a new postmaster.

Montana native Wendy Key Polensky is taking over during an exciting time for the Post Office, which like many institutions is coming up with creative ways to deal with rapid oil boom-related growth. At a ceremony Wednesday, the Post Office announced a consumer advisory council, for citizens to connect with the service. Polensky said the station also will be adding cellphone-sized mobile points of service for clerks to do simple transactions on the fly when the line gets long.

And in efforts to catch up with the population, the station has added a 24-hour automated station and will add 800 more P.O. boxes in July.

“We’ve got a lot of people coming in that their hours vary quite from ours,” Polensky said at the ceremony, where she was also officially sworn in.

Polensky said she took the postal service test a few years out of high school, “just to take it.” Back then, it was mainly a memorization test, she said. The Postal Service called her a few years later and she was hired as a temporary city clerk and carrier in her hometown of Roundup, Mont., in 1989.

She moved around Montana to Hamilton, Lewistown and the smaller Judith Gap, where she first became a postmaster.

In 2005, she moved to Belfield for personal reasons but momentarily stopped her climb upward — there weren’t any jobs open.

“After 20 years then I had to start over,” she said. Six months after the move, she was hired as a clerk in Belfield, and began serving details as officer-in-charge there and in Bowman.

Now she’s the first permanent postmaster for the Dickinson station since 2011.

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who has advocated for updates at the Dickinson Post Office, said with all the growth and changes, permanency is key for the leadership position.

She urged Polensky to listen to her carriers.

“My advice is that she talks to the people who are walking the streets delivering the mail about the challenges that they have,” Heitkamp said, “and she does everything to retain and grow her workforce because I think that’s gonna be her biggest challenge.”

The large worker population in and around Dickinson also means the station handles more parcels — online shopping packages, or gifts from workers’ hometowns — than the usual post office for a town Dickinson’s size, said Travis Bacon, temporary carrier supervisor at the location.

Like most industries that pay less than oil, the Post Office struggles to find and keep good workers. Currently there’s five carriers on temporary detail from Minnesota, and Bacon himself is only going to be around another month.

“The post office in most places is considered a decent job,” Bacon said of the pay. “Here, because of the oilfield, it’s OK.”

Bacon also said the growth is the biggest challenge for Polensky and the station, like when planning delivery routes.

“It’s constant,” he said of the sprawl. “It’s every direction.”

Son Mike Key, 28, remembers his motherworking another full-time job on top of her postal service duties when she started with the service — she was also a dispatcher at the sheriff’s department.

“She’s a really strong person,” Key said. “If she puts her mind on something, that’s it, she’s gonna get it done.”

Polensky lives on a ranch north of Belfield with her husband, who ranches.

“It was always kind of a stressful job for her but I think she handled it well just spending time with us,” Key said. “Right now she’s got a big garden at home, she likes to spend a lot of time in there and help with my stepdad on the farm and things that he’s doing.”

Polensky isn’t ignorant to what’s going on in southwestern North Dakota — in fact, her ranch currently sits between two rigs.

Despite the challenges population growth presents the Postal Service, Polensky said she’s hopeful the boom will bring more businesses like Menards that will keep workers here permanently — including with their families.

“I hope they bring the other businesses with them,” she said, “so we will keep the people.”