Who is the new postmaster general?
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."
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 USPS.com 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.
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| October 26, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Eye Opener, Postal Service
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