Postmaster General John E. Potter stepping down
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."
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."
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below
Posted by: pofinpa | October 25, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: almelbe | October 25, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: blasmaic | October 25, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: NObama_In_2012 | October 25, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SISSD1 | October 25, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SISSD1 | October 25, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: RossEmery | October 25, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: gannon_dick | October 25, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mjoy | October 25, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dbsinOakRidge | October 25, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DarrylScott | October 25, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 1561705755 | October 25, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: nomemoleste | October 25, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: savvynewyorker | October 25, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Mark20005 | October 25, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SCKershaw | October 25, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: capitolhill09 | October 25, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: langit9000000 | October 25, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: langit9000000 | October 25, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: pkbishop1 | October 26, 2010 12:14 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: fedup100 | October 26, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: stack5857 | October 26, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: patgainer | October 26, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 5407pleasant | October 26, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 5407pleasant | October 26, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: truth1 | October 28, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.