Best Service Winner: Heidi Condon, New Kingston
By Jay Braman, Jr.
New Kingston, for the uninitiated, is pretty small.
I found it for the first time one summer day when I went up Margaretville Mountain Road, leaving from the village and going over the hill past the Margaretville Mountain Inn and down the other side to where it spills off onto Route 6.
In the few miles between there and New Kingston, I was amazed at the scenery, thinking Lord of the Rings fans that stumbled onto this territory would believe they had actually found the Shire.
But suddenly all thought of Hobbits left me as I slowed down for what appeared to be a little settlement, circa late 1800s, that time forgot. When I say little I mean that it looked like Denver Bronco Quarterback Peyton Manning, on a good day with the wind at his back, could probably throw a football from one end of it to the other.
There were no side streets. Just one straight, flat strip of a Main Street that looked like, a long time ago, it had pretty much everything a little community in the middle of farm territory needed.
I would have enjoyed the experience of seeing this place for the first time more had I not been lost.
You see, I was looking for Bovina Center, another speck of a community that was still several miles off to the west, but I had been driving long enough to be certain that I had messed up somewhere and taken a wrong turn to wind up in New Kingston.
With not one soul in sight I pulled into the first oasis of civilization. The New Kingston Post Office, complete with its creaky front porch and those old fashioned windows that make everything appear wavy when you look through them.
That’s when I met Heidi Condon.
Heidi’s the “Officer in Charge” at the post office and it turns out that she was just voted best postal worker in this year’s annual Catskill Mountain News Best Service Awards. No small task given the teensy size of the area served as compared to some of the larger post offices in the region.
A total surprise
This week she said she had no idea that anyone nominated her. I guess those New Kingston folks know how to keep a surprise secret.
Heidi, who is from Millbrook, is married to Jody Condon, whose family has been in New Kingston for generations. In fact, it was Jody’s grandmother, Barbara Condon, who had the postal job before retiring and passing the torch (or stamp) to Heidi eight years ago.
On Friday, Heidi said she had no idea why anyone voted for her, but did say that when it comes to providing service, she follows one simple rule.
“I try to treat people the way I would like to be treated,” she said.
And because it’s New Kingston, treat them she must. There are no mailboxes or mail delivery to the 200 or so postal patrons.
“Everybody has to come here to get their mail,” she said. “So I see them everyday.”
So Monday through Saturday, New Kingstonites come and go along with the occasional lost traveler like me who stumbles in looking for help.
It was because of that summer day that it came as no surprise to me that she won. I recalled that after helping an elderly gent figure out how to mail a large package, she turned to me and asked if she could help. I quickly noticed that, even though she and the man were old acquaintances, she treated me the same way she did him. Open. Friendly. Polite. Helpful.
I got my directions to Bovina Center. She didn’t know offhand how to get to the exact address I was looking for, so she took extra time and looked it up on the computer, found it, and showed me the way. She didn’t have to do all that, but now I realize she did because that’s how she would have liked to be treated.
During the telephone interview for this piece I reminded her of the incident. Apparently I wasn’t the first lost soul and probably not the last to benefit from Heidi’s help.
“It happens all the time,” she laughed.