Sabrina Jackson Todd has had a career that most would envy.
However, that does not mean it was not challenging.
Todd is shown here unveiling the 2018 stamp at Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan. The stamp is a Priority Mail Express stamp and cost $24.70.
LANSING, MI -- What started as a job for Sabrina Jackson Todd to earn extra spending money turned into a 35 year career of government service for postal customers. Her retirement on March 31st from the U.S. Postal Service will be a culmination of education, adventure, and pride.
Todd took the postal exam because her father-in-law worked for the post office at that time and convinced her to take it. She took the test, passed and was offered a job as a letter carrier. Because of her fear of dogs, she turned it down. At that time, most of the carrier jobs were walking routes. Five years later in 1985, she took another exam and was offered a position as a letter sorting machine operator on midnights and she accepted.
Working midnights was an eye opener for her. For Todd, it was similar to working in a factory on an assembly line.
Todd said, “The supervisory structure was very militaristic. Plus, I never got adjusted to sleeping during the day. It wasn’t conducive for going to church either, and especially not when I became pregnant with my second son.”
After a few years on midnights, Todd moved into a job in the personnel department which allowed her to work during the day. Working in personnel opened up more opportunities for her. Personnel was where she was able to interact with employees from all the shifts called tours, as well as, the public when they signed up for the exams.
Todd said, “I enjoyed interacting with both the employees and the public. I could be a part of their career journey. The real bonus was that I could go back to church on a regular basis.”
Even though working in personnel was mainly handling the daily administration of employees, Todd was also given the opportunity to conduct the public postal exam for the district. Her district covered the majority of the state except Detroit and at that time the Upper Peninsula. Giving the public exam also gave her the chance to see some of the same people who later came to be employed.
Todd said, “I also was the examiner for employees applying for internal job listings. Giving the exam was an honor especially as a Black woman. I don’t think they ever had a Black person with that responsibility. I also became a trainer and facilitator of different courses for postal employees. It was very rewarding and one of the accomplishments that I take extreme pride in.”
Another ‘opportunity’ that Todd had in the personnel department was hiring people for the Christmas season. People could come and apply for a job with the post office without having to take the exam.
“To see people while I was out and hear them say, ‘you’re the lady at the post office that gives the exam’ or ‘you’re the lady that hired me’ was a rewarding joy. Overall, I was in my element being in personnel,” said Todd.
Dealing With Downsizing
In 2001, her job in personnel was downsized as a part of postal restructuring. She was devastated. She was offered a position either in Detroit or Grand Rapids – the district office. She chose Grand Rapids because she felt the commute would be easier.
Todd was not exactly happy about having to travel over the highway either because of the time and Michigan winters. She did not move because her youngest son was fourteen at the time and he did not want to leave his friends. So she commuted.
She said, “Working in Grand Rapids in our district office brought its own source of challenges in addition to the commute. I had to get used to a new job, new people, and a new city. But it also opened up so many doors of opportunity that I never would imagine.:
She began as a secretary to the Marketing Manager, but he was very independent and she did not have a lot of work to do. Her manager gave her special assignments that would allow her to speak, train, and conduct special events within the district. Her boss let her follow her dream to work in the public speaking and communications field.
Within two years of being in Grand Rapids, she was promoted to the Consumer Affairs Manager and Communications Spokesperson position. This put her in the thick of working with customers, handling their complaints, along with interacting with the District Manager, the more than 600 District Postmasters and employees, headquarters managers, and even Congress.
Todd said, “I found my niche. I wrote news releases, employee newsletters, gave television and radio interviews, conducted special stamp dedications, held post office re-namings, assisted with Postmaster installations, worked with business organizations that regarding mailing opportunities, and spoke before civic groups and schools.”
Although Todd enjoyed her job, the commute took its toll on me during the winter of 2008 and 2009 when she had two spinouts on the highway while going to work. She then started her search to return to the Lansing area.
In 2010, she returned to Lansing as the Customer Relations Coordinator. It was similar in duties to the Manager position she held in Grand Rapids where she continued to do some of the same public speaking and communication duties.
Todd said, “I have seen my share of challenges - organization restructuring , upset customers, facilitating work groups to resolve employee work issues and dealing with the media. One of the most significant challenges was the time period 2010 through 2012 when the Postal Service consolidated processing plants. This was major for our District because we went from seven processing plants (Kalamazoo, Traverse City, Saginaw, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Gaylord , Iron Mountain to three (Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Iron Mountain). This was a time of great concern for our customers. I had to provide information to the media and set up and facilitate public meetings for customer feedback. And was the feedback intense!”
There were times when Todd felt that being a Black woman in the midst of a predominantly white male dominated work environment was very obvious and very felt. But she persevered. She appreciated the people that gave me the opportunity to be her authentic self. She added that there were far more people who supported her than those who did not.
Todd said, “ My faith in God, and being involved in music at church (including Minister of Music) kept me centered and grounded during challenging times.”
Overall she enjoyed her job. And, in the midst of all of her years of employment, she was also able to integrate her love of music. She sings in the choir at church and plays the piano. She was known as the National Anthem singer for District employee meetings.
Todd said, “My years with the U.S. Postal Service afforded me a fulfilling career filled with travel and meeting many people . I was able to raise two sons who are now married with families of their own. I contemplated retiring for several years but was unsure. People would tell her “you will know”. In 2020, the coronavirus, the election, and the nationwide racial tension, she knew that it was time to retire.”
“So it is with some trepidation, some excitement, but great satisfaction I leave to concentrate on my two passions - my baking business and my music. I have completed my appointed time for them, and now beginning my time for me,” said Todd.