While most trips to Martha’s Vineyard are deliberate and planned, John Hirt’s arrival on the Island was haphazard. Forced out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he and his wife sought refuge with family.

“We thought we would be up here for about two weeks until everything calmed down in New Orleans,” said Mr. Hirt. “But it really didn’t. The city was a wreck for months.”

Mr. Hirt is still calling Martha’s Vineyard home. His son was born here and in April he was named the West Tisbury postmaster, following nine years as an employee at the post offices in Chilmark and Vineyard Haven. After years of service in the U.S. Navy and a career in hotel management in New Orleans and San Francisco, Mr. Hirt began working as a part time flex-clerk at the post office in Chilmark and then in Vineyard Haven.

“At 31 I was running my own hotel in New Orleans. So I had to work my way back up the ranks. I took every opportunity to do higher level work and learn the postmaster’s job,” he said.

Mr. Hirt’s service in the Navy and his experience in the hotel industry have proved invaluable in his postal career on the Island.

“I got lucky because I was the only veteran who applied for the opening at the post office,” he said of his initial start. His luck didn’t run out there. He and his family won the Island housing lottery, landing affordable condominium housing. “It was a gamble starting over in a place where we only knew two people but it worked out.”

Having grown up both in Youngstown, Ohio and on his grandfather’s working dairy farm outside of the city, Mr. Hirt appreciates community and the feel of a small town post office.

“We had a post office on the side of a Victorian house. You went in and there were little slots for letters. That’s where you would get your mail, so this reminds me of my upbringing.”

He also enjoys the opportunity to get to know his customers. “When you are in a smaller office like this you can almost anticipate your customers’ needs. You see them come in and you say, oh, that’s mister so-and-so I am going to grab his package right now.”

Hotel management proved to be good training for Mr. Hirt’s new role as postmaster. “I am used to working really busy retail windows. There might have been a day when we had 300 or 400 check-ins. That isn’t dissimilar from a day at the post office, when we have 300 or 400 customers,” he said. He also notes the similarities between New Orleans and the Island.

“We pick up in the summer here and we had a tourist-based system back in New Orleans too. You have Mardi Gras and jazz festival special events so it wasn’t that hard to adapt at all.”

Mr. Hirt recognizes the value of the operation he runs and is proud to be West Tisbury post office’s new leader. “The former postmaster, Paula Sullivan, ran a really good operation over here and I intend to keep up the great level of customer service that people have come to expect here.”

The good fortune he has encountered in the aftermath of a natural disaster is not lost on him either. “The Island has been good to my family and me and I intend to be good to the Island.”