When Fairbury Postmaster Pam Stevens retired from her position on Aug. 31, 2017, the post office was left waiting for a leader as Kayla Swallows fulfilled the postmaster duties. Little did she know that roughly seven months later the title would be bestowed upon her.
    Growing up in Chenoa, the former Kayla Pollman didn’t start traveling to Fairbury until she and other Chenoa students started being sent to Fairbury schools. Working for the post office wasn’t something she grew up wanting to do, but when people started encouraging her to apply for a job opening, she went for it.
    “I applied for the position and got it,” Swallows said. “While I was working here, I fell in love with my job and decided that it was something I wanted to do as a career.”
    Swallows started with the Fairbury Post Office in October 2014 as a PSE mail processing clerk. Swallows explained that the entry-level positions don’t have the same benefits as career employees, so she set a goal for herself to become a career employee.
    “I worked as a PSE until March 2015, when I was promoted to a part-time flex clerk,” Swallows said. “I was pretty much doing the same things I had done before, but now I had more benefits to go along with it as well as an increase in pay. I did that from March 2015 until August 2017, when I took over as the interim postmaster.”
    Swallows said it was her personal job goals that kept her motivated through the years. After becoming a career employee, she decided she wanted to become a postmaster at some point.
    “I just kept working towards that and it ended up happening a lot faster than I expected,” Swallows said.
    When a postmaster position opens up, there is a lengthy process to determine the new postmaster. Swallows said the process begins with an employment advertisement.
    “Once enough people have applied, the position goes before a review committee. They look over all of the applicants and then they decide who gets an interview,” Swallows said. “Once they decide who gets an interview, it moves on to whomever in the area is going to conduct interviews. All the applicants that are awarded an interview go in for an interview and then a final decision is made. So, it’s a pretty lengthy process.”
    Throughout the hiring process, Swallows has served as the interim postmaster. Although the announcement proclaiming her as the new postmaster hit social media on April 3, Swallows said it won’t actually become her official title until today. Other than the official title, Swallows said her duties will not change much.
    “I’m going to be continuing to do everything that I did as the acting postmaster,” Swallows said. “The biggest difference is I will officially get the office and the title.”
    As postmaster, Swallows’ duties include overseeing the postal workers, overseeing stamp orders, writing reports and overseeing programs associated with mail handling. She is also in charge of running the post offices in Anchor and Cropsey.
    “I am in charge of overseeing how employees are scanning things and where the mail is being delivered,” she said. “We also have a lot of percentages that I have to look at and compare. I’m also in charge of the overall budget of the post office.”
    On the days when her job is the most stressful, Swallows said she can always count on her employees.
    “We have our days where it gets stressful, but I have a really good team and that makes it a lot easier,” Swallows said. “If you have really good employees, it makes your day easier. Not only can I get everything done, but if I can’t, I can rely on them to help out, They are just really great to work with.”
    The new postmaster’s message to the community is that she looks forward to meeting new faces and wants to continue to grow with the position.
    “I grew up in Chenoa, and when Chenoa’s students were sent to Fairbury schools, that’s when I started going to school here. So, I’m aware of a lot of people in the community,” Swallows said. “I still have family in Chenoa, but I’m really excited to meet more people and help them. I’ve learned a lot about the post office so far, especially in the last few months of becoming the acting postmaster, but I’m hoping to continue growing my knowledge. If there is ever an issue, or if people want to come in and talk, they can always see me.”