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Who is the new postmaster general?

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Updated: 3:18 p.m.
The U.S. Postal Service is set for its first major management shakeup in nine years as Postmaster General John E. Potter plans to step down in early December to make way for his deputy, Patrick R. Donahoe.

But it's unclear how Donahoe will be any different from Potter since he's spent the last five years in his shadow, implementing cost cuts and operational changes that both have touted as their solution to solving the Postal Service's financial woes.

"We're not going to do things to kill this organization, far from it," Donahoe said in an interview with The Federal Eye late last year. "I grew up in Pittsburgh, I watched the steel mills go away. My mom and dad worked for General Motors, I watched General Motors go away. We will not let that happen in this organization."

Pat Donahoe
Deputy Postmaster General Pat Donahoe. (USPS)

Donahoe's career path mirrored Potter's for much of the last three decades. They both rose through the ranks from entry level positions, to mid-level managers to occupants of the best offices at the Postal Service's L'Enfant Plaza headquarters. They graduated from the same management training program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Both are burly men measuring more than six feet tall, each with a wife and two kids.

And much like Potter, Donahoe eagerly wants Congress to back off and let postal executives manage USPS in a more nimble way.

"Leave us alone. Providing access to the American public is a critical thing, we know that," he said.

"I think that Congress should rest easy that everybody here - our board of governors or leaders in our organization - want to do the right things," Donahoe said. "Our unions want to do the right thing. We have to resolve pay and labor issues internally and I think that it's important that we do that, because if we do that, that makes for a stronger Postal Service."

Donahoe, who decorates his office with paintings and models of classic cars, has spent the last five years immersing himself in the granular details of American mail delivery, with responsibility for about 580,000 full and part-time workers, more than 33,000 postal retail outlets and the largest vehicle fleet in the world. By the time you read this, he's already received a progress report on Monday's mail service and is on his way to several operational and budget meetings.

He's especially well-versed in the USPS retail network -- a footprint larger than that of McDonald's, Starbucks and Wal-Mart combined. But he's looking to reduce the mail agency's real estate portfolio by focusing more on expanding about 100,000 "access points" where people can obtain postal goods and services -- locations ranging from Office Depots to pharmacies with stamp machines.

"The focus now is not so much on the facilities, it's how do you provide access to a changing demand for the American people?" he said. His goal is to upgrade and to merge the backroom operations of nearby post offices into one location while maintaining retail counters for customers.

His other big issue: Customer wait times in lines at the post office.

"Our average wait time in line is under three minutes, but we still have places that are over 10 minutes," Donahoe said. "That's got to get fixed."

Well, yes, that and many other things.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

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By Ed O'Keefe  | October 26, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Postal Service  
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Next: Postmaster general talks about retirement, successor


Delivery times for mail are getting longer. A letter from a city 70 miles away takes four to seven days (including weekends). One from a city 12 miles down the road takes three days, others have taken more than a week.

Fix that, please Mr. PG.

Posted by: Pogoagain | October 26, 2010 6:32 AM | Report abuse

i wonder if "free market" senator jim demint and his cronies will continue to insist that first class mail customers continue to subsidize wal mart and the junk mailers. no business can be expected to be run efficiently and effectively with that kind of burden. if wal mart wants to fill my mailbox, let them pay the same rate i would pay to mail a letter to them.

Posted by: george32 | October 26, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Postmaster retires, postage rate go up, elimination of 6 day delivery, union contract negotiations going on, Post Office losing money and on and on and on, but what everyone should understand is the real reason behind the Post Office financial mess: read on ...The Government screws one of their own .... that's right, The OPM overcharged the U.S. Postal government agency screwed the other on:
Should the $75 billion be returned to the Postal Service, (which is rightfully theirs) it will be used to help cover current fiscal year deficit and beyond ...... I would like to blame this fiasco on the Post Office, but they did nothing wrong. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) actually manages the federal government and civil service. It (OPM) is another branch of the US Government . They (OPM) are responsible for the Postal Service retirement funds. OPM tells the Postal Service what amount is necessary for this funding and the Postal service pays it... which they did. Eventually, they (Post Office) ran an audit which discovered OPM overinflated the payments using the wrong calculations based on projected pay & future inflation. The audit was presented to the Postal Service, Management, OPM & Congress and all agreed the $75 billion was overpayment. It's hard to believe that one branch of the Government could do this to the other, but that's exactly what took place. Now it will take Congress to return the money. If they don't, all taxpayers will in some form or another have to cover the Post Office current shortfall. most likely by raising postage rates again & cutting services. If or when that happens, at least we will know why. Raising rates is bad, it has a big trickle effect, a chain reaction... Post Office charges more- customer pays more-advertisers pay more- so stores charge more for product , the trucker's delivery charges increase on & get the picture the end we all pay. Now I understand the postage rate increases for the past few years, I often wondered why they needed to do it. That $75 billion would have had the Postal Service in the black every year. The reality here is that there never should have been increases over the past few years, and probably wouldn't have if OPM calculated things right... looks like Government bites themselves in the _ _ _ on this one! Silly me to think that Social Security would some day do the Government in, their doing it to themselves! So, you can blame OPM for the overcharge, or Congress for not returning the money, but DON'T blame the Postal Service!

Posted by: northshore1943 | October 26, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

The post office exists to distribute JUNK MAIL!!!!!
Why does this ritual master places unsolicited junk into my mailbox, i pick it up and then throw it away....WHY????
why cant i just leave a trashcan near my mailbox and have then throw it away?
let's cut out the middle man.

Posted by: clarkth1 | October 26, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

As long as USPS fails to address three major problems, it will never get profitable or competitive:

1st - increasingly longer delivery times for letters and packages. It continues to take longer (in several cases as much as three weeks from one VA suburb of Wash, DC to one MD suburb of DC (just 25 miles - yet 3 weeks to deliver a media mail package)).

2nd - the fact that when a package is delivered it consistently looks like it was tossed, crushed and run over by a truck. USPS employees do not handle packages with any real care or concern - even though both FEDEX and UPS seem to be able to consistently.

3rd - the continuous effort by the USPS to make it increasingly difficult for small internet businesses to survive. Postage rates are making it increasingly difficult to offer a product by mail at a competitive price. Fewer small internet businesses = less requirement for USPS services.

Posted by: dbmn1 | October 26, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Please don't be fooled by Donahoe. He and Potter have been lying and omitting the truth for years.They have cut the actual workers down to the bare bones. This is why we are having service problems. They want to replace career employees with temps that they can abuse. You think your service is bad now? Just wait. Potter and Donahoe have been having a good old time. Investigate it now, before more damage is done. Now he wants even more freedom from Congress. More freedom to bleed the system dry. Check out how many lawsuits Potter has against him and the Postal Service. Talk to injured workers who have been forced to retire on disability, 100,000 of them. Talk to workers who have been abused by management. None of this will stop if Donahoe is PM. He will make himself and his cronies fithy rich and pat himself on the back for fooling us all, including Congress.

Posted by: mr02311 | October 26, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Why is the PMG position automatically being given to the deputy PMG? Is this temporary? The USPS desperately needs new blood at the top. The current top management just wants to go to 5 day delivery. The easiest way in the short term to cut costs. Cutting delivery days cuts service. This is not necessary and is just a band aid if major structural issues are not addressed. Like way to many personnel that have nothing to do with the movement of mail. Overpayment into the retirement fund. Prepayment into the Retiree Health Benefit fund. The USPS could continue to thrive many more years before they would have to consider eliminating saturday delivery. You need fresh and innovative thinking at the top to do that. Passing the top job on down to one of the current PMG's proteges is not how you do it.

Posted by: donnyb814 | October 26, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

northshore1943:The REAL REASON that USPS had to give LARGE PRE-FUNDING PAYMENTS to OPM that you mentioned is a 2006 LAW that Congress Passed and Bush signed. This LAW would have to be changed in order to "FIX" the VERY LARGE FINANCIAL PENALTY that you mentioned. And you are CORRECT that fixing this LAW would solve most of the USPS financial problem.

Posted by: iheardthisbefore | October 26, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I suspect Pat will be more of the same. I also hope his staff monitors blogs for some of the speak on the street. Lay off of stopping Saturday service. Rather, cut back on physical plant. We need less post offices and more points of access like he suggests. Hold postage increases. They are already higher than they should be. Rather, cut back on waste like advertising. Focus on service, and go for green vehicles over a 10 year plan. Reduce overhead - the system has too many managers, too much infrastructure. Operate like a business. Any good consultant could return the post office to profitability in 3 to 4 years. Finally, hold pay; cut management salaries to competitor rates, and do more partnering with for profit companies.

Posted by: spike8466 | October 26, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

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