Column: Julianna Schultz Represents Young Talent Nantucket Needs More Of

Chris Perry •

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Chris Perry is a contributing writer and columnist for Nantucket Current

Some of us older folks might remember the US Postal Service’s jingle: Mail moves the country and zip codes move the mail. If it’s moving to 02564, then Julianna Schultz is involved. Who is Julianna Schultz? If you ask Albert & Sylvia Lussier, who honeymooned in Sconset in 1958 and bought a home in Cod Fish Park in ’78, they would tell you that she’s “Sconset’s Postmistress”.

Schultz’s move to Nantucket is not an unfamiliar story. Born in Worcester, MA and a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University, she made a bet with her brother who had been denied a job with the US Postal Service that she could pass the postal exam and get a job. Between her junior and senior years in college, she successfully did that and was eventually “posted” to Southbridge, MA as a clerk in 2020.

“I had a wonderful postmaster as a boss who was extremely supportive and frankly, kept me interested in staying with the postal service”, said Sconset’s unofficial postmaster. “As a postal worker you can actually move about the country if a position opens up. After Southbridge, I was ‘loaned’ to Boston and lived in Natick. I was not a city person and saw an opening on Nantucket, so I applied.”

Boston’s loss has been Nantucket’s gain.

“I had never been to Nantucket - the pictures looked good online - but I had no idea what I was getting into,” Schultz said. “I took a postal clerk’s job before finalizing any housing. So, when I got to the island in June of ’21, I started looking immediately and secured the first thing that I could find, which was a Wauwinet garage ‘apartment’ that was one open room with a toilet and shower tucked in the corner with no kitchen for $1800 per month. From what I have been told, I was lucky.”

During the first few months, Schultz bounced around between the main branch on Federal St., mid island, the Annex, and Sconset. By the end of the summer season, she was spending most of her time in Sconset. By early September she said she was more of a permanent fixture out there.

“I did not know anyone on the island when I first arrived. Once I was moved out to Sconset, I started to feel more comfortable”, Schultz said. “One thing that helped was all of the dogs. I love dogs. For example, there’s Barbara Bispham and her dog Elouise - Catherine Watts’ dog Molly - Bruce Malenfant’s pair Edith & Gertrude and Judy Debaggis’ Yorkie, Rudy, who likes to crawl through the front window and get a free dog biscuit.”

Much like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, it did not take long for Schultz to get things in order in Sconset. Even though she generally works seven days per week, it’s much more than trays of letters getting stuffed into P.O. boxes. With an average of over 250 packages per day during the summer, including a high of 332 on one exhausting morning in late May, Schultz mans the outpost solo much like Kevin Costa did in Dancing With Wolves.

“I like working by myself out in Sconset. I have my routine and it works. Over the last year or so I have met some tremendous people and certainly a number of the characters that I heard so much about” Schultz said.

“It wasn’t long before Snookie Eldridge and Hannah Judy were decorating my office door. Scott Pioli never fails to wish me a good morning every day. Gerry Eldridge comes in right after lunch to say hello before he goes to The Island Home to visit his wife Jackie. Bernie Civitarese always stops in and so many more,” Schultz said. “I know my customers by the songs they are humming when they open the front door. These are the people that helped me fall in love with Nantucket. Initially, I was going off island on my rare days off because I missed my family. Now, I have a whole new family out in Sconset.”

What Julianna Schultz represents is one of only two cures for what I call “The Thom Holdgate Syndrome”. Thom Holdgate was a local product who became Nantucket’s Athletic Director at a young age roughly 20 years ago. He was charismatic, talented, had housing and a bright future on island. After a couple successful years at the helm of Nantucket’s athletic program, Thom left for greener pastures and the allure of the bright lights of Duxbury, MA as their new AD. Young, local talent with a bright future gone before we knew it.

This a serious problem for Nantucket. It is a crippling "disease” that affects the mid-management positions across the island. While not yet totally extinct, these local products are a dying breed and Nantucket needs to cultivate and retain more of them. It’s not the principal - but the department heads. It’s not the owner of the business but the receptionist. It’s not the Chief of Police but the ranking officers. These workers are the glue that holds things together. The experienced employee who does not hold the title but gets things done. Nantucket needs more Doris Herrick’s and Cheryl Coffin’s, who may not have been the Superintendent of the Schools, but everyone knew they were the ones who ran the ship.

The other solution to the Thom Holdgate Syndrome is attracting and “importing” young off island talent to make Nantucket their home. Julianna Schultz is just that. Getting Schultz and others to Nantucket is step one. Training, retaining, and compensating each one enough to keep them on island is another story. More often than not, it’s a book that never gets finished.

As mentioned earlier, it is not a hopeless situation. There are two known cures including a developing local collection of talent such as Mary Lepore, Travis Lombardi, Nate Barber, Nicole Turner, Nate Roberts, Rachel Day, Kevin Ramos, Kelsey Perkins, Matt Roberts, Amanda Furtado, Travis Ray, Adam Sabin and others who have committed to the island. As leaders in their own right, they have the makings of an ideal mentoring group for the young, off-island talent recently employed who are setting up shop on Nantucket but may be suffering from a little “stage fright” right out of the gate. But can this village help make their commitments long term?

As we have all been told, “It takes a village to raise a child”. Well, we need this village to help keep our local talent on island. We need this village to help attract young talent from off-island and help carry us forward. Nantucket is going through a unique island-wide phenomenon where a sizable, experienced segment of the island’s population is transitioning out of the work force. Additionally, we have seen time and time again locals moving off island. We have seen highly publicized, off island hires turning into nothing more than short-term rentals. Collectively, their departures result in yet another hole in our community that needs to be filled - and refilled again.

It makes sense that our community puts a full court press on to attract, retain, cultivate, motivate, and develop our younger population into Nantucket’s experienced workforce of the future. Thinking outside of the box is not enough. Actions speak louder than words or this “village” 30 miles out to sea will continue to suffer from the consequences of Thom Holdgate Syndrome.

One of the best deals going in this country is mailing a letter. A postal carrier comes by your house each day - he/she sees a red flag and grabs your letter. For a mere 60 cents, that letter is whisked away and is hand delivered to another small mailbox in Portland, OR or Austin, TX or Savannah, GA four days later. Certainly, the U.S. Postal Service does not bat 100 percent, but if you go three for 10 in Major League Baseball, you get into the Hall of Fame. In the years to come, I just hope when I send a letter out to Sconset and 02564, Julianna Schultz is still making that delivery.

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