In 32 years with the U.S. Postal Service, Robert J. McLennan has seen good times and dark days.
The current era -- with the Postal Service facing billions of dollars in deficits and looking to cut jobs and days of delivery -- is probably the darkest time he's ever seen, McClennan said .
"These are very difficult times," said McLennan, who retired Saturday after 18 years as president of Branch 3 of the National Association of Letter Carriers. "Not only are our jobs and wages threatened, our entire existence is being threatened."
Yet the 59-year-old Amherst resident said he has enjoyed his time with the Postal Service, working 11 years as a mail carrier and 21 years as a full-time union official.
He said he has especially enjoyed the friendships he has made and helping to organize annual Stamp Out Hunger drives that have collected hundreds of tons of food for the needy.
"I do believe the Postal Service will survive these hard times and move forward. We have great people, and I still think we're the greatest delivery system anywhere in the world," McLennan said. "Walk into any of the private delivery companies with 45 cents in your pocket, and see if they will deliver a letter to Hawaii or Alaska for you."
McLennan grew up in West Seneca and was doing factory work, which he didn't enjoy, when he decided to start taking civil service tests in the late 1970s. He was happy for the opportunity to hire on with the Postal Service, because he liked working outdoors and not being confined to one workplace.
He later got immersed in union duties and decided to devote his career to representing his co-workers. He wound up being president of Branch 3 longer than anyone in the history of the local unit, which was founded in 1889.
Branch 3 currently has more than 2,000 members, including retirees. It represents about 1,400 active mail carriers in Western New York.
McLennan decided not to run in elections held last month to select new Branch 3 officers who will serve until 2015. Two of his protegees -- Larry Kania, the new president, and Susan Lewis, the executive vice president -- were elected as the local's two full-time officers.
Other elected officers are Renee Baron, vice president; Kim Fitzgerald, secretary-treasurer; Mark Seifert, assistant secretary-treasurer; Nicole Marasco, Peter Preziotte, Donald Cook, David Grosskopf and James Isenhart, trustees; Nanci Trzepkowski, sergeant-at-arms; Kent Hankin, director of retirees; William Campbell, editor; and Donald Karp, insurance representative.
"I feel like it's time for younger people to lead our union," said McLennan, who is married and has three sons and four grandchildren.
In retirement, McLennan said he plans to spend more time with his grandchildren. He also enjoys bicycling, studying genealogy and hearing live bands.
"I'm going to take the summer off, like a teenager, and then possibly think about some part-time work," he said.