Emily Carroll and Joe Goudreault

Emily Carroll and Joe Goudreault

"We’re not their parents, but we ask how their day is going. We are a family community."

Oh, the excitement! The joy! It’s hard to beat that euphoric feeling you get upon discovering a laminated card inside your Academy letter box imprinted with one simple word:

“PACKAGE.” But just who makes those “aha” moments occur each and every day? “P.O. Joe” Goudreault, Exeter’s affable post office supervisor and mail slinger since 2005.

Goudreault came to Exeter from Apollo Computer and Hewlett-Packard, where he worked as a planning scheduler and new-product buyer. “I didn’t have a lot of experience with mail operations when I got here,” he says. But he applied his tech background and introduced new systems, such as electronic package tracking, into the Academy’s workflow. He also brought a co-worker from HP, Emily Carroll, who has remained by his side for the past 12 years as the only other full-timer in the mailroom.

We got postal with the pair to find out just what goes on behind the counter.

The job: Goudreault and a crew of eight work year-round, hand-sorting letters from plastic postal tubs and stuffing the mail slots of 1,076 students, 380 faculty and family members and 16 departments. Each slot is labeled, from left to right, top to bottom, 11 rows high, with an individual’s name. “We keep records of all the nicknames, too,” Goudreault says. “It helps with students who have the same last name or when they are called by something other than their given name. That happens a lot.”

Can you change your box location? Nope. “Sometimes we have a guy who is 6-foot-7 who has the lowest box,” Goudreault says. “But I can’t change it. They are ordered alphabetically. It’s the rules.”

Most interesting mail received: A pig, fruit flies and ladybugs for the science center. A bathroom sink, tires, computers and potatoes. “There was a fad of mailing potatoes for a while,” Carroll says.

Busiest seasons: Opening week of school (more than 300 packages passed through the Exeter mailroom each day during the first seven days of class this year) and Valentine’s Day (one year they delivered 1,096 individual items, including flower arrangements, love letters and candy).

How much mail comes in? On a monthly basis, the Academy post office receives 17,000 pieces of mail (magazines, letters and fliers), plus more than 5,000 boxes. “We get bucket loads!” Goudreault says. “The box count is crazy,” Carroll adds. “It has tripled in the last five years.” She credits the uptick to easy online ordering and free shipping.

Joe Goudreault with packages at the Post Office landing dock.

How much mail goes out? The mailroom ships up to 5,000 pieces of outgoing mail each day.

Personal processing: Each package that comes through the post office is touched by human hands — often up to seven times — from receiving it off the truck to delivering it to a student.

Have you ever lost a package? “There’s human error involved, of course,” Goudreault says. “But we do a lot of CSI. In my 14 years, there’s only been five packages I couldn’t find.”

More than a mail-slinger: “We try to take care of the kids,” Goudreault says, overlooking a tub of Twizzlers on  the post office counter. “We see kids who open their mailbox and get a letter that maybe says they didn’t get into a college; they’re upset. We’re not their parents, but we ask how their day is going. We are a family community. … We get to know them as the years go on. We sit with them at lunch. It’s not all business.”

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the winter 2019 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.