Between 3,800 and 4,200 postmasters nationwide will take early retirement to help the federal agency reduce costs, the U.S. Postal Service said Monday.

The estimate includes about 70 out of approximately 500 postmasters in Nebraska, said Brian Sperry, a Postal Service spokesman based in Denver.

"We didn't quite know exactly what to expect," said Sperry when asked if the figure is what the agency had anticipated when it announced the buyout plan in May.

All full-time career postmasters were offered a $20,000 buyout. They had until July 2 to accept. The deadline for leaving the Postal Service is Tuesday for most postmasters, but others could stay on based on operational needs.

"These retirements will create opportunities for many postmasters, including promotional opportunities," Sperry said.

The Postal Services plans to fill some of the postmaster vacancies internally, Sperry said. Other positions will be filled by new hires, and they will be part-time, hourly, non-career jobs, he said.

Sperry said he did not know how many of the 70 or so postmasters in Nebraska were in Southeast Nebraska.

Greenwood Postmaster Renise Rosenboom said she couldn't turn down the incentive. Her last day will be Tuesday.

"I was ready anyway when they announced they were going to offer it," said Rosenboom, who has served as Greenwood's postmaster for 10 years.

She began her Postal Service career in 1982 at the main post office in Lincoln. Before coming to Greenwood, she was postmaster at Syracuse.

Theresa Welker, a rural carrier associate hired in March, will take over postmaster duties beginning after Rosenboom's departure.

Rosenboom, 60, said the Postal Service has told her they do not plan to hire a new full-time postmaster for Greenwood. Instead, the agency plans to reduce post office hours to four hours per day, Monday through Saturday.

Waverly Postmaster Richard Wendt announced his retirement in early July after accepting the Postal Service's buyout incentive.

"Well, I've been thinking about it and looking at it (retirement) for a couple of years. Once they offered this incentive, that gave me the encouragement to retire now," Wendt said in an earlier interview.

Faced with years of declining first-class mail volumes and increasing Internet and wireless communication, the Postal Service has said it could lose as much as $18.2 billion per year by 2015 without major changes.

In addition to the buyout incentive for postmasters, the Postal Service plans to reduce hours at more than 13,000 of the nation's smallest post offices, which could save $500 million annually.

In Nebraska, 90 post offices were on a national list to be closed and about 300 were targeted for reduced hours. But after a public outcry, the Postal Service decided not to close any small post offices but cut post office hours by two to six hours.

"Except for shortened window hours, customers will see no change," Sperry said.

Small towns also would be offered other options including rural route service, locating post offices inside existing businesses and getting mail from nearby post offices.

Sperry said the new strategy not only preserves small rural post offices but also enables the Postal Service to cut costs and return the organization to financial stability.

Community meetings will be in each of the 13,000 places where hours could be reduced, Sperry said. The process is scheduled to be completed in September 2014.

Reach Algis J. Laukaitis at 402-473-7243 or alaukaitis@journalstar.com.