Former acting Post Master General, Nigel Cobham presenting UPU certificate to acting Postmaster General, Valeta Best. (GP)

A journey that started nearly 43 years ago, and saw the evolution of the Barbados Postal Service (BPS), is about to take a different turn for acting Postmaster General, Valeta Best. Come December 31, she will place the final stamp on her duties with the BPS, where she spent her entire public service career.  She will embark on a new chapter of her life from January 1, 2022 – retirement.

Reflecting on her years in the service, Ms. Best pointed to several highlights, which have all contributed to the development of the BPS.

Among them was the role she played in establishing the Caribbean Postal Training Centre, located at the General Post Office (GPO) on Cheapside, St. Michael. This centre has provided an avenue for the continued training of postal workers not just in Barbados, but across the Caribbean.

Ms. Best also played a major role in Barbados’ qualification for the Universal Postal Union Security Certification for the Airmail Unit at the Grantley Adams International Airport and the Office of Exchange at the GPO.

“Barbados was the first country in the world to achieve it. They had just implemented a set of security standards and we were the first administration to successfully show compliance, so we got the security qualification for our Air Mail Unit and for our Mail Sorting Office,” she said proudly.

Ms. Best remembers her entry into the service as the young girl whose “father asked for a job for her” sorting mail as a temporary clerical officer for just three weeks in December 1978, for the Christmas holidays.

Ms. Best played a major role in Barbados’ qualification for the Universal Postal Union Security Certification for the Airmail Unit at the Grantley Adams International Airport and the Office of Exchange at the GPO.

“Back then, there were mountains and mountains of mail. It was sorting mail all day; getting to work for 7:00 a.m. and not knowing what time you would finish, based on the amount of mail coming into the country.

“It was Christmas and the mail would be coming by boat; it was coming by plane; mail was just constantly coming.  So, we would work till 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. …  and even on Saturdays and Sundays. It was not an option; you had to work so you came to work,” she fondly recalled.

The following year she was offered a temporary position at the St. Lucy Post Office, due to the incumbent officer there being granted maternity leave, “and the rest is history”.

From there, Ms. Best worked as a substitute at post offices across several parishes in Barbados, including St. Peter, St. James, St. Thomas, St. Andrew, St. Michael (Eagle Hall and Welches Road), with the General Post Office as her base.

Back then, she did mainly counter services duties, working as a Postal Clerk. This involved manually selling stamps; delivering and accepting parcels for overseas posting; cashing and issuing of money and postal orders; paying pensions and welfare.

“At one point, we were even sending telegraphs through Cable and Wireless because you did not have telephones to make phone calls back then,” the acting Postmaster General said.

Acting Postmaster General, Valeta Best (right), celebrating We Gatherin’ with managers at the St. Thomas Post Office in 2019. (GP)

By 1983, Ms. Best was appointed to the post of Postal Clerk and continued to work at different post offices, before moving to the GPO, soon after it opened in 1985, to work counter services, back office work, and in the sorting area, occasionally.

The acting Postmaster General received her first permanent station at a district post office in 1986, when she was assigned to the Speightstown office in St. Peter. She remained there “for quite a while”, and built relationships with her customers, people in the community and businesses in the area.

It was not long before she became renowned for her knowledge of each customer that she interacted with on a daily basis, a quality she transferred to staff when she was redeployed to work in the GPO’s personnel department in 2001, as a clerk overseeing the records of postal staff.

Her journey through the BPS then, saw her moving into a supervisory role as Assistant Postal Superintendent in the Registration and Air Mail branches, Parcel Post and the Philatelic Bureau, where she played a critical role in preparing for Cricket World Cup 2007, through the production of a special stamp issue and the procurement of relevant memorabilia.

Subsequently, Ms. Best was recommended to act in the post of Postmistress at a number of offices across Barbados, before taking up the assignment of acting Training Officer. In this position, she had responsibility for the training needs of the department and oversaw the annual training budget.

The acting Postmaster General received her first permanent station at a district post office in 1986, when she was assigned to the Speightstown office in St. Peter. She remained there “for quite a while”, and built relationships with her customers, people in the community and businesses in the area.

It was here that Ms. Best made another of her memorable contributions, as she sought out the training needs of staff, and coordinated the relevant training programmes, based on the department’s training proposal.

“During my tenure as training officer, I also participated in the Universal Postal Union/Caribbean Post Union Quality of Service Improvement Project. This regional project saw the project manager and I travelling to different islands, namely Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and finally Barbados, to observe best practices, while we worked at achieving set milestones for our individual post offices, aimed at improving the quality of service in the region,” the acting Postmaster General recalled.

At the conclusion of the project, as Deputy Project Manager, Ms. Best was responsible for providing the necessary documentation and information which afforded Barbados a Universal Postal Union Quality Service Award.  “That is like achieving an ISO [certification],” Ms. Best remarked.

She did not hesitate in sharing this knowledge with staff of the BPS, as she developed a curriculum to train them in the new way forward, to ensure that the local postal service was in adherence with the improved standards.

Ms. Best moved on to act as Postal Superintendent for a short while, and later Senior Postal Superintendent with responsibility for personnel. 

Acting Postmaster General, Valeta Best, present a prize in the 47th International Letter Writing Competition in 2018. (FP)

“I had the overall responsibility for personnel. I had to make sure that the island was fully staffed. I had to understand the different documents that would come from Personnel Administration Division, now People Resourcing and Compliance, with instructions and changes … and how staff would be impacted,” Ms. Best recalled, noting that she also had to deal with staff retrenchment during this time.

Her progression through the BPS continued with her appointment on promotion to the post of Assistant Postmaster General, with responsibility for operations and personnel in 2012, before assuming the role of acting Deputy Postmaster General in 2015. Three years later, she assumed the role of Acting Postmaster General in 2018.  “I came through the ranks of the Post Office,” she indicated.

Reflecting on her journey through the BPS, and how it has evolved over the years, Ms. Best said plans for postal reform would strategically position the postal service in a new and emerging world.

She acknowledged the importance of technology and how it has streamlined postal operations at all levels. However, she stressed that a case should be made for knowing the fundamentals of postal operations.

Ms. Best said the BPS was moving into “exciting times”, as Government continued to roll out initiatives highlighted under the Postal Reform Project; in particular, e-commerce and looking at avenues for micro, small and medium enterprises.

She explained that the groundwork for postal reform was already laid with the conclusion of the recent Postal Reform Project and the ensuing strategic plan for 2020 to 2026.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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