Though new Joseph Postmaster Keith Newburn has been in the U.S. Postal Service for 18 years, it is his second career. For many years he was employed in the forest products industry, before he decided to change directions because of the number of mill closures.
Newburn steps into the vacancy left by Mike Warner, who quietly took over the Enterprise Postmaster position in November after substituting in the Enterprise office frequently for former postmaster William Thayer. Warner served as Joseph postmaster since 1993.
Newburn moved to Wallowa County from Bend, where he worked for about three years as supervisor of customer services and processing. He then commuted from there to the Chemult Post Office where he was postmaster for almost five years. In the past year he's also traveled around to different post offices on special detail. His wife, June, is currently still living in Bend, employed at the downtown post office there, but expects to eventually move here.
Newburn is no stranger to Wallowa County. His father worked for Pacific Power for many years and the family annually camped out at Wallowa State Park in the summers when he had duties in this area. While in college, the postmaster cruised timber in the Promise area for Boise Cascade.
"I fell in love with this area," he said. "If I have my way I will retire here."
Born in Baker City, Newburn lived all over the Northwest growing up, graduating from Walla Walla High School in 1965. He attended the University of Montana and graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in forest engineering.
"I cut logs to put myself through school," he said, noting that he had logged in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.
For a time after college Newburn worked in Lewiston for Potlatch, involved on forest research to increase utilization. One results of his work was to bring in one of the first tree chippers to the mill.
Over a period of time he worked for numerous mills including Publishers Forest Products in California and Ellington Timber in Baker City. "I closed down a lot of mills, riding the wave," he said.
Eventually he decided to change directions, and in about 1980 went to work for Caroll Adams Tractor in Walla Walla, Wash., and then opened a feed supply business.
He started out his postal career as a rural route carrier in the Walla Walla area for four years, became a work supervisor for city carriers and was selected as a U.S. Postal management trainee, finishing his training in Spokane, Wash., in 1991.
For over two years he was manager of distribution operations, working the graveyard shift, before moving to Bend in 1994.
Newburn and his wife June have two grown sons and four "nearly grown" daughters. He is currently living in an RV near Joseph. He is an avid hunter, fisherman and has taught hunter education safety courses.
"I'm always pretty active in the community," he said. For example, he started a snowmobile club in Chemult, though he doesn't own a snowmobile, to help get Oregon Department of Transportation funding for trail grooming through the state snowmobile association.
Newburn supports economic development and points to Wallowa County's tremendous resource base. He feels Joseph and its improvement project is a good example of what a community can do when it works together. "When you are dealt lemons, you make lemonade," he said. The postmaster does not yet know exactly what activities he will become involved with but believes strongly in "giving back" to the community.
"Mike ran a pretty good ship," said Newburn about his predecessor. He said his plans include stepping up the retail part of the postal business, and educating the public about the relatively new services, such as electronic tracking of packages via phone or Internet.
Newburn said he is enjoying his new position and invites local people to stop by the Joseph Post Office to meet him.