Hembree was awarded the title of Rural Carrier of the Year at the state convention on July 3. Each district elected a carrier to compete for the title. The carrier then submits an application listing accomplishments, honors and leadership positions.
"They ask you what all you've done for the union, then you do a survey of yourself -- which that's the hardest part," Hembree said. "In my years of being local [union] steward, I have helped save jobs, I have helped people that have been fired get back to work and I have helped create routes.
"It means a lot, showing appreciation for what I've been doing all these years, all my hard work, just staying steadfast working for the post office and our employees. I am a representative, I represent our rural carriers, I represent our district and I represent Georgia. So to be recognized for that is just awesome."
In August, she will again be recognized for her state award at the national convention in Buffalo, N.Y. Hembree's route covers about 60 miles and almost 6,000 customers.
"All of my customers are like family. ... They know me, they know me as Carol. They know me as somebody they can count on," Hembree said. "[The favorite part of my job] is the interaction with my customers, it really is. Like I said, they're like family to me. They call and check on me and I check on them.
"One day I was on the route and [a customer's] mailbox had a snake coming out from underneath the box and I called her and told her so that she wouldn't get hurt."
Surprised Friday with a cake and a scrapbook of photos and news clippings, Meek will finish her 30 years with the USPS and her time as Adairsville's postmaster on Wednesday.
"She has a well-deserved retirement. She has things she wants to do, she travels extensively, she and [her husband] Larry will do that," said Armuchee Post Master and Adairsville Mayor Evan King. "She's been a good boss, she's been good for the community. We've seen a lot of growth since she's been here."
Meek began her career as a temporary rural route carrier in Woodstock, made the move to the Cassville Post Office and then became postmaster of the White Post Office before spending 20 years in Adairsville. In 1998, she was named Georgia Postmaster of the Year.
"Adairsville is a wonderful community. I've always thought that it is the cream of the crop and I'll tell you the reason why," Meek said. "Sometimes mail doesn't come in in a timely manner and it's not our fault here at the Adairsville Post Office, but for some reason mail just doesn't get here when it is supposed to. And 99 times out of 100, if someone calls inquiring about it, they'll apologize and say, 'I'm sorry to call you, but I'm missing this.' And one time we didn't have social security checks come in on the first of the month and they didn't come in until the sixth and I didn't have one person get angry, I didn't have one person cuss me out, I didn't have any negative customers -- and that speaks volumes about the community."
White Postmaster Stacy Bryan will take Meek's place as officer in charge until the permanent replacement is named.