ST. CLAIRSVILLE - "This was a good job for me," said Debbie Ruffner
looks around her
"The post office was good to me.
Then again, I was good to the post office."
On the last day of a 31-year career, Ruffner recalls knowing immediately that she
would stay with "the service."
For the last 13 years, Ruffner has been the postmaster at the St. Clairsville Post Office, calling it "the best career move I could have made.
took the postal civil service test in 1978 after a newspaper advertisement caught her
Newly divorced and working in retail, she
thought the post office looked like a promising way to support herself.
wanted a city carrier position, but took the part-time flex clerk opportunity for three years, then became an acting supervisor in Bellaire.
After another three years, Ruffner
was sent to the Cadiz station as the officer in charge, an interim postmaster.
The following 23 years were spent as the postmaster in Bridgeport, Bellaire and St. Clairsville.
At Bridgeport (her hometown), she
was the only female at the facility at that time, an adjustment for everyone there.
She notes that she is only the second female postmaster in the St. Clairsville station's 200-year history, and it currently employs 30 people and has annual revenues of $3 million.
said the postmaster position was great because she
enjoys helping people, and she
was able to assist both customers and employees.
Mentoring employees has also been important to her
, and Ruffner
adds that watching some of her
employees move up the post office ladder has been gratifying.
has also mentored other postmasters and employees through the professional organization of more than 700 postmasters, National Association of Postmasters of the United States
, in which she
has held two terms as the national vice president.
credits her mentor Bob Hoover in Bellaire for guiding her during the early years.
said the mainstay of the post office is its universal delivery -- everywhere -- and that polls and surveys continue to give the agency the highest marks in trust.
To save increasing costs, the post office has been using energy efficient vehicles and has tried to cut work hours through attrition.
Its workforce has been reduced to 600,000 from 800,000 nationally.
"I wish people could understand what goes on at the post office," she
added, especially with fewer people handling customers and routes.
would like to see all facilities remain open.
"It breaks my heart.
I have to walk away now before I watch these small facilities close."
Work and worry did take its toll earlier this year when Ruffner
suffered a mild heart attack.
took five months to recuperate and decided to retire.
Plans include more golf, getting back into bowling and traveling to Nags Head on the Outer Banks and to Hawaii to visit her
is also pursuing a couple of options for volunteer work to continue helping people and giving back to the community.
"I wanted to retire my way: get everything in order, make sure everything was ready, then turn it over," she
As a girl, Ruffner
wanted to be an airline stewardess, but married and divorced young.
proud of her
accomplishments and her
"I have no regrets," she