Lake Bluff Postmaster Will Retire at End of Month
John Pullan will close 39-year postal career on July 31.
If there were a postage stamp dedicated to the postmaster with the longest term of service in northern Illinois, Lake Bluff’s John Pullan would be the face to paste.
After 39 years of postal service, Pullan has accepted an incentive program offered to encourage early retirement, and will step down from Lake Bluff on July 31. Pullan said he would not be alone. Postmasters from Highwood, Grayslake, North Chicago, Antioch, Zion and Mundelein also are taking the early retirement option.
“It fit early on and I kept doing it,” Pullan said of joining the Postal Service as a management trainee following his 1973 college graduation. “I didn’t think the Post Office would be the career I would retire on.”
When Pullan began his career, the postmaster was required to reside in the same town where he or she worked. “They did away with that rule in the 1980s,” Pullan said.
Pullan traveled to various work locations before settling in Winnetka for 17 years and transferred in 1997 to become the Lake Bluff Postmaster.
“My wife, Lynn, and I had a daughter and we were looking for a bigger house,” Pullan said of the move. “We got a lot more space in Lake Bluff. And, I can see the logic in living in the same community I work in. I know the community and it is a positive.”
As a manager of postal operations, Pullan divides his time between the Lake Bluff annex and downtown retail locations. He said the postal service is reorganizing, as small rural postal locations will reduce their hours resulting in full-time postmasters needing to be placed. Suburban post offices like Lake Bluff will not see a radical change.
Postal operations, however, have undergone massive changes since Pullan started. He recalled during early management training, “there were operators at the letter sorting machines who would sit in front of terminals keying in information on a piece of mail, such as ZIP code. Sitting in the same position for an entire day wasn’t the best for the employee,” Pullan said.
In the 1990s, optical carrier reading machines replaced those clerks, Pullan said, and “impacted the number of employees we needed to handle the mail.”
Pullan doesn’t recall the price of stamps when he first started, but “what a lot of people don’t realize is that the government was subsidizing the cost of stamps by 60 percent prior to the 1970s.”
The Post Office Department then became the U.S. Postal Service.
“Since 1983 there has been no subsidizing from the government for operations and taxes do not support us," he said. “Yet the Postal Service must follow the federal Universal Rule, unlike private companies like Federal Express. Even if we lose money, delivering to a tiny island off the coast of Maine, it is mandated that we provide universal service.”
Pullan does not have specific plans for retirement but plans to stay in Lake Bluff.
“I plan to be here to enjoy the amenities Lake Bluff has to offer and do some projects around the house," said Pullan, who also plans to assist his wife with her elderly parents in Highland Park.