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Postmaster General John E. Potter stepping down

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 7:18 p.m. ET
The nation's top mailman is turning in his bag, retiring after a lifetime of service with the U.S. Postal Service.

Postmaster General John E. Potter will retire on Dec. 3 after nine years at the helm of the mail agency, the Postal Service said Monday. His deputy, Patrick R. Donohoe will succeed him.

In a statement, Potter did not elaborate on his departure, but singled out the Postal Service's roughly 584,000 full and part-time workers.

"I fully appreciate their support in maintaining the tradition of trust that dates back to Benjamin Franklin and the founding of our nation," Potter said. "It is our people that define our organization and it is their dedication and sense of purpose that drives our business."

John Potter
Postmaster General John E. Potter.

Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Louis J. Giuliano called Potter "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."

"We unreservedly regard your tenure as one of great accomplishment," Giuliano said.

The Postal Service delivers an average of 584 million pieces of mail per day, operates the nation's retail network and is the nation's second largest civilian employer.

Once considered among the top political appointments in Washington, the postmaster general is now selected by the Postal Board of Governors, a panel of presidentially appointed officials that currently hail mostly from the corporate world.

Postal Regulatory Commission Chairman Ruth Y. Goldway voiced respect and admiration for Potter, adding, "He has guided the Postal Service through rapid expansion and recent difficult times."

Goldway signaled the commission's support for Donohoe, calling him "an inspired choice" whose "energy and creativity will be invaluable."

Donohoe is a 35-year Postal Service veteran who has served as deputy postmaster general since 2005. He currently oversees the mail agency's workers, facilities and transportation network and has cut billions of dollars in operational costs mostly through worker attrition and facilities consolidation. Donohoe will be the seventh postal worker promoted to the top job; Potter was the sixth.

"It's been an honor to serve with Jack," Donahoe said in a statement. "Our challenge going forward is to implement the ambitious plan now in place to assure the continued viability of the Postal Service in fulfilling its mission of providing reliable, self-supporting, universal mail service to our nation. While we are confronted by challenges, I am confident we will succeed."

Though USPS maintains the highest favorability ratings of any federal agency, it has sunk into deep debt amid declining revenues and mail volume triggered in part by the recession. Postal regulators recently denied a request to raise first-class postage rates beyond the rate of inflation, and a series of embarrassing watchdog reports have upset lawmakers looking for the mail agency to make deeper spending cuts before seeking changes to federal postal laws.

It is not immediately clear why Potter decided to step down, though USPS staffers and others in the postal community -- a wide fraternity including the shipping industry, labor unions and large retailers -- signaled recently that he was likely to go after another record year of financial losses and failing to earn greater management flexibilities from Congress.

Potter has served as the 71st successor to Benjamin Franklin since June 2001, taking the helm three months before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and anthrax scare that briefly crippled the nation's mail delivery system. He is the longest-serving postal boss since the 1820s.

A Bronx, N.Y., native, Potter joined the Postal Service in 1978, following in his father's footsteps as a postal clerk and regional manager. He met his future wife, a postal worker named Maureen, while working in Manhattan.

"He's a tough guy, and the Postal Service is his life," said Tony Conway, a former postal executive and executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers who also spearheaded efforts to block a postage rate hike. "He's done a great job and he was the right guy at the right time for the job, but I think a different skill set is really needed at this point," Conway said.

One of Potter's toughest critics, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), thanked him for making difficult decisions during "some of its most trying times" for USPS. She said Donohoe "must strengthen the Postal Service by cutting costs, enticing more customers and putting this vital institution on a sound financial footing."

In an April interview, Potter signaled a special appreciation for postal workers.

"Our people don't give themselves enough credit for the level of complexity of what they do and they certainly don't give themselves enough credit for the success they have getting things done," he said. "It's truly a great place to work, because I think everyone at the end of the day cares about customers. We might fight against ourselves sometimes, but at the end of the day, we know we're all wedded to the hip and we get the job done."

RELATED: Postmaster General John Potter leads a cry for retrenchment

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 25, 2010; 6:35 PM ET
Categories:  Postal Service  
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Comments

ups/fedex pays better

Posted by: pofinpa | October 25, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

USPS's fate was sealed when Postal Reform legislation was passed a few yrs ago. Rate increases were linked to general cost of living increases. Postal costs differ from general cost of living increases and USPS's fate was doomed by that legislation.

Posted by: almelbe | October 25, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

I had to pay thousands to my congressman to keep our post office off the closure list.

Posted by: blasmaic | October 25, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

He was a perfect obamabot. Only lost $600,000,000 a year. Cheap. Thanks for your effort, loser.

Posted by: NObama_In_2012 | October 25, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

i hope they hire someone from UPS OR FED EX.NOT SOME POLITICIANS FRIEND.

Posted by: SISSD1 | October 25, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

I HOPE THEY HIRE SOMEONE FROM UNITED PARCEL SERVICE OR FED EX TO TAKE HIS PLACE.ALL THIS GUY POTTER WANTED WAS A PAYCHECK AND FREE HOUSING.

Posted by: SISSD1 | October 25, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

"lawmakers looking for the mail agency to make deeper spending cuts before seeking changes to federal postal laws."

I take this to mean that Saturday deliveries will continue for now.

The Postal Service is between a rock and a hard place, competing with the Internet for correspondence on the one hand and with UPS and FedEx for package delivery on the other.

Going to the post office tends to be an unpleasant chore - it would be an uphill battle to improve their customer service.

I'm sure Mr. Potter considered all options to improve the viability of the Postal Service. I don't see how the change of command will change the long-term trends.

Posted by: RossEmery | October 25, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

OMG, a National Security catastrophe ... He knows all the Zip Codes!

This would never happen under the Republicans.

Posted by: gannon_dick | October 25, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

The Postal Service runs a customer service business like a government agency. They are hemoraging money while potential customers are locked out sue to reduced hours. They need to hire a sales specialist from the shipping industry that knows how to compete with FedEx and UPS in the delivery market.

Posted by: mjoy | October 25, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Against remarkable and diverse opposing forces and challenges ... through thick and thin... Jack was a good man in a very tough spot.
The USPS is in steady hands with Mr. Donohoe, but the challenges they face remain quite extraordinary and resistant to quick fixes.
David S

Posted by: dbsinOakRidge | October 25, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

i hope they hire someone from UPS OR FED EX.NOT SOME POLITICIANS FRIEND.

Posted by: SISSD1
=============================================
Why?

So we can pay seven dollars a letter that FedEx and UPS charge instead of the less than 50 cents charged by the Postal Service?

You pay 15 times as much for FedEx and UPS letters and you think they are more efficient? Try walking into a FedEx or UPS office and telling them you want them to mail a letter for 44 cents. You'll be laughed right out of their office.

You don't know a good deal when it stares you in the face.

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Posted by: 1561705755 | October 25, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

What a joke! The USPS doesn't even use GIS mapping, meaning they're delivery and trucking routers aren't optimized for fuel efficiency, meaning they waste money by the oil tanker loads.

Same thing for Rural Route deliveries, where they're paid by the mile -- so there's no incentive to look for the shortest delivery routes.

Get GIS mapping and get out of the past.

Posted by: nomemoleste | October 25, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

To "NObama_In_2012":
A "perfect obamabot", huh? But he was appointed during the first year of the Bush administration, BEFORE OBAMA GOT TO THE SENATE!

Did you bother to read the article? I think not. There is NOTHING that the right will not blame Obama for!

Posted by: savvynewyorker | October 25, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

To all the folks having fun Dem-bashing Potter, you do know he was appointed under Bush, right?

Posted by: Mark20005 | October 25, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

On a Thursday in June, a package from Florida via UPS arrived before I came home. Immediately, I called the number on the delivery notice to have them to hold it at their office so that I could pick it up. The next day I went there after work I drove 20 miles and waited in a long line only to find out that the package was unavailable because it was still on the truck. That meant that I would have to pick it up on Monday, and my fruit would surely be fertilizer. Others in that line had similar disappointments yet they didn’t complain with the same vitriolic fervor that is often directed at the Post Office. I think that is because we think of ourselves as owners and approach USPS with proprietary expectations. I believe this colors our view to the benefit of UPS and FED/EX, even when those companies provide more expensive substandard service.

Posted by: SCKershaw | October 25, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Postal's parcel and priority mail are doing very well - it's stuff like 1st class letters and flats that are suffering because they are competing against a new little invention called THE INTERNET. But even so if postal didn't have to pay 5billion dollars a year to co pletely pre-fund a retirement account (as mandated by bush) they would be showing profits.

Posted by: capitolhill09 | October 25, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

At least his name will no longer be repeatedly be used as Defendant to all lawsuits against the agency.

Posted by: langit9000000 | October 25, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

At least his name will no longer be repeatedly be used as DEFENDANT to all lawsuits against the agency

Posted by: langit9000000 | October 25, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

This fat face destroyed the US Postal Service. His successor will do no less.

Posted by: pkbishop1 | October 26, 2010 12:14 AM | Report abuse

He's running scared! There are lawsuits against him right now that he knows he (P.O.) can't win and that are going to be trouble for him. Also contracts are up. He put the P.O. in this position now he's walking away just like they did at ENRON! (If i'm not mistaken doesn't he get paid to make sure the P.O. makes a PROFIT? Hard to do when they buy several million dollar machines when they know that business is declining) And they are STILL buying machines to this day! SO LONG POTTER. Enjoy your retirement in your million dollar mansions, while 33,000 disabled postal workers have been let go and some have lost their homes and are struggling to eat. It's time to apply at Mc d's, with our contracts up we will probably get better benefits there!!! LISTEN UP PEOPLE. IT'S NOT THE EMPLOYEES THAT IS RUNNING THE P.O. INTO THE GROUND, IT'S THE OVERPAID LAZY G R E E D Y TIES!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: fedup100 | October 26, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Now we can buy Donahoe's house for $2million and pay for him to move four blocks to a new house

Posted by: stack5857 | October 26, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Things never change at the Postal Service no matter WHO is at the helm! They need to make internal changes and get rid of 75% of management, whose only function is to harass the hourly workers and run insignificant reports! These people add nothing to the productivity of moving the mail and actually have no productive function! Most of these people actually WORKED a couple of months before kissing their way into management and there they exist their entire worklife, collecting a BIG salary for doing nothing but costing the Postal Service a lot of money by creating mountains of grieviances, which they end of losing and having to pay off on about 97% of the time! It is NOT an uncommon thing to be harassed simply because some new management personnel comes into an office and doesn't like your looks, so suddenly you become the target! This kind of harassment just never ends! Another prime example of how the Postal Service operates is as follows: One year when we were facing yet ANOTHER deficit, the Postal Service sent around a TEAM of six high dollar management employees to EVERY office, no matter how big or small, to call service talk meetings to tell us how broke they were, causing a huge amount of overtime for the day in high volume offices. The workers couldn't believe it! Here we stood, looking at approximately a half million dollars a year in salaries.............Well, you get the scenario!
Just recently where I worked, a newly assigned postmaster created 238 grieviances in six weeks before they took her out of there and assigned her to another office Unbelievable! The sad part of this is that these people are just assigned somewhere else without ever being held accountable for THEIR actions!
We had a Postmaster who refused to pay overtime to work the parcels at Christmastime and then forced everyone to work overtime on Christmas Eve until all the parcels were delivered costly the Postal Service even MORE money in overtime!
Another time and Postmaster, again refused to allow the overtime needed to work the mail to be forwarded, delaying a HUGE amount of peoples mail (approximately 7200 linear feet) for over 6 weeks, causing a multitude of problems for theses poor customers. People insurance policies were being cancelled for non payment, credit card service fees, vital services cancelled due to non payment..............all because this Postmaster was trying to make herself look good! Now mind you, if a carrier were to delay first class mail for even a day, this would be a suspendable offense! This Postmaster finally did get reassigned after many more such actions.
Until there are some Congressional investigations into the inner policies and actions of these insane management personnel to fix these types of problems, nothing will change and the Postal Service will continue on in their inefficient ways.

Posted by: patgainer | October 26, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

So what does Jack Potter have to look forward to now, after he’s decimated the Post Office and walks away to let someone else ride the expense account? Sure, the retirement “incentives” will help, and the lavish lifestyle forged on the backs (and shoulders, and knees) of carriers will provide a sunny diversion. But when that inevitable final delivery draws near, and the moment of truth stares back from the mirror, what will the Postmaster claim as his crowning moment? What will stand as his legacy?
To put it simply…nothing. Mr. Potter has accomplished nothing. There is no hero here. No revisionist history has been made. No books will analyze and celebrate his tenure. No one will miss him.
Tributes? Doubtful. If we had to write an obit of his admin, it would probably read something like: “The Post Office, once the greatest, most trusted institution on the planet, wilted under his watch. Morale, customer service; everything took a back seat to greed and ineptitude. His minions wasted money at the speed of light. His policy of allowing the abuse of TE’s and PTF’s mirrored slavery. He left younger carriers with no one to look up to and veterans shaking their heads in dismay. And his contempt for the union shrouded every station.”
Heck of a legacy.

Posted by: 5407pleasant | October 26, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

So what does Jack Potter have to look forward to now, after he’s decimated the Post Office and walks away to let someone else ride the expense account? Sure, the retirement “incentives” will help, and the lavish lifestyle forged on the backs (and shoulders, and knees) of carriers will provide a sunny diversion. But when that inevitable final delivery draws near, and the moment of truth stares back from the mirror, what will the ex-Postmaster claim as his crowning moment? His legacy? To put it simply…nothing. Mr. Potter has accomplished nothing. There is no hero here. No revisionist history has been made. No books will analyze and celebrate his tenure. No one will miss him.
Tributes? Doubtful. If we had to write an obit of his admin, it would probably read something like: “The Post Office, once the greatest, most trusted institution on the planet, wilted under his watch. Morale, customer service; everything took a back seat to greed and ineptitude. His minions wasted money at the speed of light. His policy of allowing the abuse of TE’s and PTF’s mirrored slavery. He left younger carriers with no one to look up to and veterans shaking their heads in dismay. And his contempt for the union shrouded every station.”
Heck of a legacy.

Posted by: 5407pleasant | October 26, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Under this guy Potter, the Postal Services was buying million dollar homes for managers. Some got to live in these homes when the employee asked for a transfer. These were home these employees could not purchase with their salaries. This same guy potter was outed by either CNN or ABC for always selecting hotels for meetings that were close to gambling casinos. Good Riddance Mr. Potter.

Posted by: truth1 | October 28, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

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