Orange County Postmaster Hector G. Godinez announced his retirement Friday, ending a career that began almost half a century ago when he became the first Mexican-American letter carrier in the county.
Godinez told a small gathering of postal employees at the Santa Ana division headquarters that his sudden decision to end a 46-year career came after newly appointed Postmaster General Marvin Runyon announced drastic plans to restructure the Postal Service.
Godinez said Runyon's proposals would mean that he and other senior management staff would be stationed in San Francisco.
"To manage in any other location would mean that I would have to pull up the very roots I have worked so hard to establish throughout my life," said Godinez, 68. "Leaving the Southern California area and the source of my strength at my age would be a mistake."
Godinez joined the Postal Service as a letter carrier in 1946. His appointment as postmaster of Santa Ana by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 was "the high point of my career," he said.
He was appointed head of the Santa Ana division in 1986, which put him in charge of 10,000 letter carriers and postal employees in Orange County and parts of Los Angeles and Riverside counties.
Godinez's tenure in Santa Ana has sometimes been turbulent. In February, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that he had illegally retaliated against a female employee after she reportedly embarrassed the Postal Service by organizing a feminist conference in 1982 with Gloria Steinem as the keynote speaker. Godinez has maintained that he did nothing wrong.
Four years ago, Godinez was investigated by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles for allegedly misreporting on-the-job injuries. The investigation resulted in disciplinary action that was never disclosed. Godinez has maintained his innocence.
Christine Dugas, a spokeswoman at the agency's Santa Ana office, said postal employees will remember Godinez as the manager who made the division the leader in revenue generation, productivity and efficiency. Last year, the Santa Ana division was recognized as the best workplace environment in the western region of the Postal Service.
"We're going to miss him tremendously," Dugas said. "He spent 50 years making us first in the nation. We cheer him on."
On Runyon's plans to make the Postal Service profitable, Godinez said: "Material changes are not the answer. We have to recognize that people make the organization."
Godinez said he plans to remain active despite his retirement from the Postal Service. "I am looking for some challenges," he said. "I'm not the type born to sit down in a rocking chair in an undershirt and drink beer."