- Written by Brennan Murray
- Published: 14 August 2013
Duxbury Postmaster Tracy Bygate is a tenacious woman.
You could point to the fact that she embraced a leadership position at Duxbury’s post offices in the same month that terrorist attacks devastated America and anthrax scares tormented the postal system.
Or you could look at the house in Plymouth she and her husband spent seven years to build completely by hand, only after countless weekends, holidays and vacations spent nailing in shingles on the roof.
You could even spend time with her three dogs – all rescues – to see a reflection of a fervent passion she has for protecting the well being of animals.
For many though, the only glimpse of Bygate comes during brief visits to the Hall’s Corner post office, where she regularly scurries around to coordinate the timely arrival of mail to over 7,000 mailboxes around town.
She first started working in an Ohio mailroom in 1983, but came to work in Duxbury in September 2001, where she has been the postmaster for almost 13 years. And while a lot has changed since she first started, the hectic nature of the job hasn’t waned a bit.
“There’s a lot going on all the time so it’s still sort of exciting and fun,” Bygate said. “Although, after 31 years it starts to wear you down. You think you've seen it all but you haven't."
In her office the phone rings off the hook all day. Sometimes customers call to ask about how to apply for a passport or inquire about a missing package. On other occasions, one of her 22 em- ployees will call in with the “story of the day” – a broken down car, can’t find day care for kids, etc. And on three bzarre occasions, to be exact, car-bound customers acciden- tally shifted into drive instead of reverse and crashed through the building’s wall.
All of this is a side to By- gate’s main workload, which starts with unlocking the doors at the Snug Harbor post office at 7:30 a.m. Monday morn- ing. Then there are reports to be filed, daily complaints to be read, and if a carrier doesn’t show up for his route, mail to be delivered.
Luckily, Bygate said, she’s had an excellent staff lately that takes some of the stress away. Though she constantly worries about her carriers while they’re out on the road, hoping they make it back safe, some of her happiest moments are when her employees get married, have kids or even grandchildren.
“It’s a family you don’t choose, but they’re still family,” Bygate said.
The most rewarding aspect of her work is making pleas- ant customers happy, whether that means helping them track down a lost parcel or guiding them through the most suitable shipping options. Sometimes though, on a busy weekday morning, not all of the customers understand the hustle and bustle that goes into every day’s work at the post office.
"Let me just tell you this has been a tough career," Bygate said.
Part of the difficulty has come with the evolution of the Postal Service in the digital age, and the adjustments Bygate has had to make to be effective under new rules and regulations.
Perhaps the best symbol of the corporate nature of the postal service is a sheet on Bygate’s wall that lists 10 specific situations when she needs to contact her boss for approval or permission to do something. Things aren’t as they used to be.
“In the old days someone would come in and say, ‘I can’t pay for my box rent, is it ok if I pay next week?’ And I would say, yeah no problem. Now it’s all on the computer. It doesn’t matter what your story is anymore,” she said.
It may be hard to believe that a postmaster as busy as Bygate would have the energy to pursue multiple hobbies at home, to forgo relaxation for paper crafting, quilt sewing, alpaca raising and home building. But then again, not everyone gets married on Duxbury beach in the middle of a December nor’easter, and has latitude and longitude instead of a formal address on their marriage certificate.
Bygate has done all of the above. Her greatest passion, though, is animals. She owns three alpacas, a greyhound, two golden retrievers and cats too. Her greyhound, the seventh rescue dog she’s owned, is a reminder of one of her proudest accomplishments: helping to end dog racing in Massachusetts in 2008.
Just three years before, in October 2005, she flew alone to New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina had ripped the city apart just two months before. Though road signs were blown away and rampant vandalism had her frightened, Bygate made it to the rental car com- pany just in time to grab a ride for her trip to Baton Rouge. Once there, behind a line of National Guardsmen, Bygate got right to work caring for displaced and injured dogs and horses.
“Animals are really important to me. My pets, they are one of my main focuses in life,” Bygate said. “I knew it was going to be emotional but it was way worse than I ever thought.”
Aside from walks with her dogs in Duxbury conservation land, Bygate keeps her- self busy around holiday seasons making and selling paper crafts from greeting cards to ornate gift boxes. She does it ritually, despite the extra work at the post office around the same time of year.
“It’s really therapeutic,” Bygate said. “And I make all my own gifts for my family, whether they like it or not.”
Like the cosmetic touches Bygate still has left to finish on the exterior of her home, her work at the post office and beyond does not have any predictable finale. She prides herself on working hard and pursuing her passions, and the youthful excitement that lights up her face when she recounts her experiences suggests no intention of “relaxing” any time soon.
“I still don’t know what IwanttobewhenIgrowup, so I’ve been applying for all kinds of jobs,” Bygate said with a smile. “For now I work here. It’s what I know and it’s what I do. It would be a little