Taylor Kimbo navigates the front Post Office doors. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times

Officials from the United States Postal Service (USPS) traveled to Cordova this past week to discuss service-related issues at the local branch in the wake of community outcry over recent changes made to operations at the Cordova Post Office.

Melissa Medieros, the manager of customer relations, and Candace Kvale, manager of post office operations, traveled from Anchorage to connect with community leaders for two separate invitation-only meetings. Medieros and Kvale met with the city manager, mayor and representatives from the Cordova Chamber of Commerce first. The U.S. Forest Service organized the second meeting, and several business owners and private citizens were in attendance.

This past winter, the Cordova Post Office underwent changes to its package pick-up policy, resulting in patrons no longer being allowed to pick up large parcels at the bay doors. Cordovans were previously able to drive to the back of the building and load large deliveries and heavy packages directly into their vehicles. Post office users say this practice was not only convenient, but essential for postal service in rural communities.

Without the bay doors in use, patrons must now navigate two sets of single swinging doors to the parking lot. Large parcels and deliveries consisting of multiple packages require a post office employee to load a dolly, leave the front service counter, and walk around to the front lobby.

An online petition calling for the new package policy to be reversed was started by concerned community member Anica Estes in March, and has gained over 300 signatures. Her passion for the issue was inspired by wanting to support her fellow Cordovans.

“A vital necessity was taken from the community and Cordova has the right to be upset,” she said. “This issue has been ongoing for months with no response and certainly no resolve.”


Estes says that as a lifelong Cordovan, this new practice upends a long history of customer convenience.

“The bay doors at the USPS are a huge asset to our entire community. Not only was it safe, it was effective, quick, and convenient,” she said.

Estes also brought the issue before Cordova City Council, where it gained public attention.

“In my three years as city manager I’ve never seen an issue bring more people into city council chambers,” said City Manager Helen Howarth.

Howarth said that the city hopes to be able to facilitate dialogue around the issue.

“It’s not our role as a city to influence USPS policy, but we’ll try our best to communicate and find solutions,” she said. At the recent meeting with USPS representatives Howard did just that, stressing the urgency to finding a solution.

“This is a now issue,” she told them at the meeting with city officials.

Multiple entities, both individual and business, have also posted public letters decrying the new package policy, detailing the ways in which they say it has negatively affected their normal activities.

Kristie Beckett holds open the front post office doors for a dolly filled with packages. Photo by Kinsey Brown

Steve Namitz, district ranger at the Chugach National Forest, shared a letter he wrote to post office management with The Cordova Times detailing how the new policy posed a possible safety risk to his staff.

“The doors are not automatic and are cumbersome while trying to use a dolly to haul packages to the parking lot, which then you must navigate on uneven terrain with either wet, snowy, or extremely icy conditions,” he wrote in the letter.

Others have echoed similar concerns that the new policy affects vulnerable citizens the most. In another open letter co-signed by several local business owners, the Chamber of Commerce highlights how “anyone using a cane, a walker, or wheelchair can no longer take their own packages to their vehicles.”

Much local ire over the issue has been focused on new Cordova Postmaster Nicole Barela, who completed her first year in the position in February. Facebook comments on posts related to the Change.org petition ranged from confusion about the policies to suggesting Barela be “run out of town.” It is unclear whether the change in service is a discretionary decision on behalf of Barela or an implementation of a policy change from upper management. Barela declined to comment on the situation.

Sharon Ermold, a resident of Cordova for over 60 years, told The Cordova Times in an interview that she was “dismayed” by some of the social media messaging directed toward the postmaster.

“To be honest … it’s gotten really heated,” she said.

Many Cordovans eagerly awaited the result of the meeting between USPS representatives and community leaders. Questions put forth by community leaders ranged from why the policy was enacted to whether rural communities like Cordova are exempt from such restrictions. However, as of yet no solutions have been agreed upon. At the meeting put on by the Forest Service, Mederios said she would respond with solutions by the following Friday, a deadline which has come and passed.

Will Osborne, owner of Laura’s Liquor, was in attendance at one of the meetings. He says he’s glad that the representatives were taking the time to hear concerns but wasn’t completely satisfied with the conclusions. 

“I would have liked to hear more of their thought process,” he said.

In the meantime, Cordovans continue to struggle with the new policy and are feeling its effects in more ways than just inconvenience. For many, it has rattled the close community feel that the rural postal location used to inspire.

“It’s one of the hubs of our community,” Osborne said of the post office. “Not only do we go down there to pick up our mail, we meet our neighbors and talk to people … and now it’s not the friendly service that we’ve always had. It used to be that you would go down there and everybody would help you with whatever you needed. It’s not that way anymore.”

Disclaimer: Sharon Ermold is related to Dick Shellhorn, a columnist at The Cordova Times.

— Camille Botello contributed to this report