It’s the end of an era: The U.S. Postal Service announced Oct. 25 that Postmaster General Jack Potter will retire on Dec. 3. Potter was named the 72nd U.S. Postmaster General on June 1, 2001 – making him the longest serving postmaster general in nearly two centuries.
The Governors of the Postal Service named Deputy Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe as the next PMG. Donahoe is also the Postal Service’s current chief operating officer.
Although the horrendous 2007 postal rate hike happened under Potter’s reign, the outgoing PMG has some industry fans.
“I think Jack Potter was probably, if not the best, certainly among the best PMGs we’ve had in the last two decades,” says Hamilton Davison, executive director of the American Catalog Mailers Association. “He presided over an enormously challenging environment and I think he responded well.”
A native of New York City, Potter is credited with modernizing management, introducing long-term, strategic thinking necessary in a complex and changing marketplace, and transforming the Postal Service into a service-driven customer-focused and cost-sensitive organization.
Potter’s accomplishments include:
- Eliminating more than $20 billion in costs during the last 10 years, with cumulative savings of more than $50 billion.
- Building a leaner, more flexible workforce and increasing efficiency and productivity through technology and the expansion of automation in mail processing and delivery.
- Reducing career employment from 787,000 positions in 2001 to about 584,000 today through attrition, using strong and focused management practices.
- Leading the Postal Service and the nation through the anthrax terrorist attacks following 9/11.
- Creating a 10-year action plan as a blueprint for necessary operational, legislative and regulatory changes to the current business model to ensure a viable Postal Service in the future.
Chairman of the Board of Governors Louis J. Giuliano said in a statement that Potter has been “a steadying and far-sighted leader throughout a period of dynamic change in America’s use of the mail and during times of economic uncertainty. The hallmark of your success was your ability to build respectful relationships with all stakeholders, customers and employees that established a trusted level of credibility. We unreservedly regard your tenure as one of great accomplishment.”
The USPS lost $11.7 billion during the past three years and has seen its mail volume fall sharply. Potter has taken several steps to fix this in recent years, asking Congress to consider a number of initiatives. These include prepayment of retiree health benefits, proposed five-day postal delivery, more freedom to close postal facilities, and the alleged $50 billion overpayment to the Civil Service Retirement System from 1972-2009.
Meanwhile, Donahoe, who told attendees of the ACMA’s National Catalog Forum in April “we need action around catalogs,” began his career as a clerk in Pittsburgh in 1975. He became responsible for all facets of mail operations, including processing delivery, retail, engineering, transportation and facilities, in 2001. Donahoe has served in a variety of senior management positions in operations and human resources before becoming Deputy Postmaster General in 2005.
Donahoe is a good choice for PMG, “especially under this very trying time,” says ACMA’s Davison. “As attendees at the ACMA Forum heard last year, Donahoe is a man of passion, vision, sense of urgency, and commitment. He’ll be an excellent leader for us in the mailing industry for the future.”