First African American woman sworn in as Milford postmaster

“This is big for us. This is really big for us,” said Norwalk Postmaster Ricky Sherrod as his sister, Jeanette Sherrod, was sworn in as only the second woman and the first African American to serve as Milford postmaster.

Jeanette Sherrod, 52, took the oath of office Thursday at a packed Milford City Hall, filled with post office workers, friends, family, and members of her church, the First Baptist Church of Stratford.

There has been only one other woman in the city’s history to serve as postmaster since William Durand was appointed Milford’s first postmaster in 1795, United States Post Office (USPS) officials said when announcing Thursday’s ceremony. The first woman to serve as postmaster was Debra Kendzior, who held the position before John O’Mara, whom Sherrod replaced. Sherrod is the 25th postmaster of Milford.

Being only the second woman to hold the position is important, but Sherrod said she is more proud to be the city’s first African American postmaster.

“Because I am an African American,” she said. “And I want all African American young women to realize that they can achieve like I did.”

She talked about one leadership training program she took part in, where she had to climb a wall. Elaborating after the ceremony, she said that wall represented to her all the struggles throughout her life that she had to overcome, and which she did overcome.

“Who would have thought that a black woman from Mississippi would become the postmaster of Milford?” she said. “I kept the faith and I made it to the top.”

She also credited her supporters — family, church and co-workers.

Sherrod’s brother, Ricky, fought back tears as he talked about their childhood years. He said their mother left them in Mississippi for a year to travel to Bridgeport, Ct., to try to find a better life for them. When she returned to Mississippi, she moved the family to Bridgeport, “to the projects of Beardsley Terrace,” he said.

The family lived in a two-bedroom apartment on the eighth floor, and Ricky joked that it was a big step when they moved to the second floor into a three-bedroom apartment.

“She’s always been my protector,” Ricky said, talking about school ground skirmishes where his sister came to his rescue. “She was always there to protect me.”

He expressed his pride at his sister becoming the first African American postmaster here, saying she is making USPS history.

Sherrod’s daughter, Shataya Sherrod, said her mother has always been a strong role model.

“I’m proud,” Shataya said. “She makes me proud to be her daughter and to have her as a mother.”

Sherrod started as a postal carrier in Bridgeport in 1989. She later worked as a post office manager in Stratford, before being assigned to the post office in Milford in 2016. Last June she was named the Milford postmaster. The oath-of-office was scheduled for after training was complete.

As postmaster, Sherrod is responsible for managing the daily operations in Milford, with some responsibilities that overlap into Orange. She supervises postal employees and oversees customer service and all the administrative tasks involved in getting the mail out every day.

The four Milford supervisors who work under Sherrod sat together during Thursday’s ceremony. They said they have a lot of respect for Sherrod because she is the first African American to hold the position and because she is a great boss

“She is very fair,” said Scott Kelly, one of the supervisors. “She backs up her supervisors. She only asks, ‘Do the right thing’.”

They talked about her integrity, her honesty.

“It’s about being honest, and expecting that from everyone,” said Jimmy Bickford, another post office supervisor.

David Mastroianni Jr., USPS district manager for the Connecticut Valley District, administered the oath of office.

The ceremony included a presentation of colors by the Milford Fire Department, an invocation by the Pastor William B. Sutton III of the First Baptist Church of Stratford, as well as comments by Milford Mayor Ben Blake, and post office officials.

Brenda Fleming pinch hit as the singer for the ceremony, filling in for the scheduled singer. Fleming said she’d never met Sherrod before, but after hearing all about her, she changed the last song of the ceremony from The Lord’s Prayer, instead belting out the hymn, How Great Thou Art.