Reggie Roberts: the mail maestro of San Jose City Hall
Reggie Roberts, 59, sorts mail that he picked up from the U.S. Post Office. Roberts has worked for San Jose for more than two decades. Photo by Sonya Herrera.

    Every morning for the last quarter of a century, Reggie Roberts ensures Silicon Valley’s most powerful politicos have their mail.

    Roberts, a city employee, has been delivering letters to offices in San Jose City Hall since its North First Street location decades ago. He’s the one colleagues come to for a little laughter, a warm smile and his bank of knowledge.

    “I try to get along with everybody, because you never know how people are now,” Roberts told San José Spotlight as he continued to sort mail, a task that must be completed by 10 a.m. each morning. “Everybody’s attitude is different.”

    Reggie Roberts stops at the U.S. Post Office downtown before he begins his shift at San Jose City Hall each morning. Photo by Sonya Herrera.

    Roberts, 59, was born in Texas, but his family moved to Memphis in his youth. He lived in Tennessee until the early 1980s when his aunt invited family members to move with her to California. He now lives in Milpitas, and his four children and five grandchildren all live in the Bay Area.

    The city hired Roberts as a contract employee more than two decades ago. He began working in the mailroom in 1999, starting as a temporary employee covering for another worker who became a firefighter. Then the city offered him a full-time position.

    Walking into his office today reveals photos of his family, memorabilia of his favorite football team—the Dallas Cowboys—and accolades and awards he’s received for his work at City Hall.

    Reggie Roberts keeps photos of his family, including his children and grandchildren, on his desk at San Jose City Hall. Photo by Sonya Herrera.

    The ebb and flow of the job depends on the day. Fridays are relatively easy, but on Mondays the volume of mail is sizable. Still, he’s often able to finish his main tasks by 11 a.m., and afterwards he heads to the city’s Central Service Yard to help the warehouse workers before he returns to the mailroom in the early afternoon.

    “It keeps me busy, because there’s a lot of downtime,” Roberts said. He also visits different departments across City Hall’s 18 floors to help them distribute mail to staff.

    Olivia Lopez, an office specialist at the city’s housing department, said it makes her day when she sees Roberts. His institutional knowledge is irreplaceable, she said.

    “Whenever I have questions about how to get things to work here, he always knows,” Lopez said. “He’s like my dictionary.”

    Regina Lizaola, a staff specialist for the city’s code enforcement department, has worked with Roberts for decades. She sees him whenever her department sends out mass mailers. He’s the type of person who gets along with whoever he meets, immediately striking up a conversation when people come to his office or meet him in the hallway, she said.

    “He is a friendly face, the first thing you see, very happy and outgoing,” Lizaola told San José Spotlight.

    Regina Lizaola and Reggie Roberts, who’ve worked together for decades, share a hug at City Hall. Photo by Sonya Herrera.

    The test of time

    Roberts has seen a lot of growth and change in San Jose, but the COVID-19 pandemic was transformative as it swept across the valley, he said.

    The city looked like a ghost town, he said, recalling the early days of the pandemic, when shelter-in-place orders kept people home. During those difficult times, Roberts said he was still required to come into City Hall and distribute mail.

    “I could drop a pin and hear it,” he said.

    Now City Hall’s busy pace is back post-pandemic, and Roberts’ colleagues have returned. When asked who his favorite friends are after so many years of walking through the halls of power, he demurred.

    “I better not say that, because I’ll get myself in trouble,” Roberts told San José Spotlight. “I try to treat everybody the same.”

    Roberts plans to continue working at the city for at least another five years before he retires, after which he thinks he may try delivering packages for Amazon.

    “I want to continue to do something,” he said. “I don’t want to just sit around and get a beer belly.”

    Contact Sonya Herrera at [email protected] or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.

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