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A year without a Santa Claus | USPS carrier not allowed to deliver while wearing Santa suit
UPDATE | Santa is back.
The United States Postal Service granted the request of local Kris Kringle Bob McLean to don his Santa hat on Friday and wear the full suit on Christmas Eve.
"There will be a Santa in Bellevue," McLean said Thursday afternoon, following a meeting with management
Full story is below.
While dreams of Santa popping down the chimney on Christmas Eve to deliver presents were extinguished for most during childhood, a select few Bellevue residents have seen St. Nick trade in his sleigh for a mail truck.
For more than a decade now, letter carrier Bob McLean has driven around Bellevue each holiday season, delivering a little Christmas cheer while wearing a full Santa getup for two or three days. But this year, a local grinch complained to the U.S. Postal Service, and McLean has been banned from bringing his alter ego to work this year.
“The government is shutting me down because it’s a non-postal regulation uniform,” said McLean, who has been with the postal service since 1971.
McLean began donning the red and white when a stranger at the mall told him he looked like Santa Claus. Always the crowd pleaser, McLean took to the comparison, went out and bought a suit, and then another.
When he first started delivering mail in full Santa garb, McLean immediately noticed the attention. He said he’s caused traffic jams on his route on Old Main as passing drivers attempted to catch a glimpse. Merchants along his route have watched for years as McLean has been the center of attention to tourists and residents alike.
“They stop him on the corner and want group pictures with him,” said Brenda Archuletta, manager of Amore Chocolates. “Little kids – they just stare because they wonder.”
They wonder because he fits the character. Every bit Kris Kringle, McLean sports a white beard and a tuft of long white hair. Looking the part is no easy effort, either. He dyes his blond hair, and keeps a careful eye on the calendar when he trims the beard.
The only part of the Santa look he lacks is the portly figure, after losing 95 pounds.
McLean has brought his alter ego to Bellevue’s most popular Christmas attraction, Snowflake Lane, where he took his family a few years ago. He said they were pushed aside as 50 people lined up to take pictures.
He’s also been a big hit at the Aegis Living of Bellevue senior center. He visits regularly as both Santa and mailman. The residents know him well, and are always excited when Santa knows their name, he said.
But only a few days after Thanksgiving this year, he was pulled off his route by a supervisor saying someone had complained about the uniform. He didn’t know who he had upset, or why the complaint was filed.
“This was the first time; I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I don’t step on anyone’s toes. Being Santa isn’t religious to me; it’s secular. It’s about giving.”
USPS spokesman Ernie Swanson said the complaint came from a fellow carrier. Decked out in the full on Santa suit, McLean was not recognizable as a USPS employee.
McLean is still shocked over the outcome. He sees carriers wearing Christmas gear all the time. Either way, McLean said, he will bring the Christmas cheer, and he plans to don the Santa suit at work one last time: Christmas Eve.
Bob McLean delivers mail along his route while dressed as Santa Claus in 2009. CHAD COLEMAN, Bellevue Reporter File Photo