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Envelope, please – region’s mail No. 1

The U.S. Postal Service district that encompasses most of Eastern Washington and all of Idaho is best in the nation.

Karen Fairlee, acting postmaster for Spokane, said the Spokane-based district bested 82 others in performance rankings based on service, financial performance, and employee safety and satisfaction during 2007.

“It is a pretty complicated formula,” said Fairlee, who added that some factors receive different weightings depending on the district. Honolulu, No. 1 in 2006, has been a tough competitor because of its unique characteristics, she said.

Fairlee said postal performance in the city of Spokane – ZIP codes that start “992” – ranked second last year among cities its size, behind Vancouver, Wash. In 2006, the city trailed only St. Cloud, Minn.

As for the regional district, Fairlee credited her just-retired predecessor, Ed Schierberl, for taking it to the top from what she called “very mediocre” service a few years ago.

“For a while, we took our eyes off our mission,” Fairlee said. “Our mission is to deliver the mail.”

Spokane delivered 52 million pieces of mail of all kinds in 2007, Fairlee said. On a typical day, as many as 300,000 outgoing letters are processed, with the number exceeding 1 million around Christmas.

About 560 employees provide customer service in Spokane, she said, and a similar number work in the mail-processing center adjacent to Spokane International Airport.