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Ceres' new postmaster not afraid to work hard
• Shelly Holton recently left Valley Springs for Ceres job
Shelly Holton
Shelly Holton took the oath of office Tuesday morning to become the new postmaster of Ceres. The former Valley Springs postmaster was given the oath by Post Office Operations Manager Neil Gonzalez. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Judging by the glowing accounts of her from fellow postmasters in the area, Shelly Holton will be a hardworking and diligent postmaster for Ceres.

The 60-year postal manager raised her right hand at a swearing-in ceremony yesterday morning to become Ceres’ new postmaster. She was surrounded by other postmasters who all repeated her reputation as a hard worker who isn’t afraid to put in the long hours to make sure mail is delivered accurately and on time.

Post Office Operations Manager Neil Gonzalez administered the oath to Holton, who transferred to Ceres from Valley Springs where she was postmaster.

She replaces Lee Hoskins who has been Ceres postmaster since 2008.

One of her challenges in this post-pandemic world is hiring and keeping employees. A big reason Gonzalez selected Holton is because she is skilled at retaining employees.

“I’m able to retain my employees,” Holton said. “At Valley Springs I always did. When you become a postmaster you’re not ‘supposed’ to touch the mail. But these guys know I will (help out). I mean, I was here last night until 9 o’clock with them.”

Right now the Ceres Post Office is like a lot of businesses in being short on employees.

“It’s really hard to retain employees. It’s a very, very, very hard job. It pays well and you have good benefits and everything but ...”

She cited how one new employee has been in training for two weeks and can’t presently get half of his route done.

“The postman makes it look easy but it’s not that easy of a job.”

Ceres is bigger than Valley Springs, of course, but what makes it more challenging for Holton is now she is dealing with 10 city routes. Rural routes are easier to manage, she added.

The camaraderie among her fellow postmasters who attended the short ceremony was evident. The ceremony was attended by City Manager Alex Terrazas and postmasters from offices in Keyes, Modesto, Turlock, Atwater, Soulsbyville, Jamestown, Tuolumne, Linden, Tracy, Manteca, Newman, Ripon, Gustine, Lathrop, Denair, Escalon, Waterford and Oakdale.

“She was always conscientious and always very patient with me,” shared Escalon Postmaster Ken Crandal who has worked with Holton in the past, telling her directly: “And I do appreciate the fact that you give so much to the postal service.”

Holton has been popular with her clerks and letter carriers – like the time she went to help out with problems with the Sonora Post Office and six Valley Springs employees went with her.

“That stuck with me,” he said.

Holton began her postal career in 1986 as a city carrier out of the West Lane post office in Stockton. In 2005 she stepped into management as a supervisor. She became postmaster of Valley Springs in 2013.

“A postmaster is truly a part of their community, and it is my mission as to ensure my entire team serves this community with outstanding service,” said Holton.

In Ceres, Holton supervises 30 employees who process 40,000 pieces of mail daily and oversees the retail services and the daily distribution of mail to 14,317 delivery stops, 3,500 post office boxes, 10 city routes and seven rural routes to a community of over 50,000 residents.

Ceres is one of 542 post offices of the Sacramento District, which stretches from the California-Oregon border to Fresno.

Holton is not the first woman to run the Ceres Post Office. The first was Allura Ulch, who was appointed by President William McKinley in 1900.

The move brings her closer to her family, including daughter April Holton who is in Ceres and a part of the Lucas Dual Language Academy Parent Teacher Club. She also enjoys spending time with other family members, including son-in-law Shane and her four grandchildren, Andrew, Isaiah, Ayvah and Londyn. In her spare time she enjoys travelling and reading.