USPS’s Donahoe: Who is the new postmaster general?

Patrick Donahoe will be taking over at USPS from John Potter, but what can we expect from the 73rd postmaster general? The new man in the chair is faced with an uphill struggle. A quick flick through the news pages makes sorry reading for USPS.

Earlier this year, the company ended its Q3 with a net loss of $3.5bn, with one USPS executive claiming that liquidity remains a “major concern”.

A month later, the US Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) rejected a USPS plan to increase the price of sending a letter by 2 cents – a proposal that formed a key part of the operator’s huge cost-cutting programme. USPS is now pursuing legal action over the rejection.

To compound the misery, Post&Parcel reported last week that the company is set to lose tens of millions of dollars for a series of “willful” health and safety violations at its processing facilities across America.

Although some might think the role of postmaster general is a poisoned chalice, Donahoe remains adamant that the operator will turn things around.

“We’re not going to do things to kill this organisation,” Donohoe told The Federal Eye 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 organisation.”

“I think that Congress should rest easy that everybody here – our board of governors or leaders in our organisation – want to do the right things,” he added. “Our unions want to do the right thing. We have to resolve pay and labour 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 obviously knows the size of the task that awaits him. In July, the new postmaster general said that total mail volume this year is expected to drop to 175bn pieces, compared to a high of 213bn pieces in 2006. In light of this, he said that it was crucial to match work hours to workloads and to adjust carrier routes to reduce the need for pivoting.

He said that now is the time for people to step up and make the changes necessary to prepare for the future.

Donahoe does fit the bill, and does have the necessary experience to help dig USPS out of the mire. He has held the title of deputy postmaster general since 2005, and served as company’s COO from 2001.

Beginning his USPS career as a clerk, Donahoe advanced his skills through positions of increasing responsibility. These include senior vice president of operations, senior vice president of human resources, and Allegheny area vice president. His academic accomplishments include a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Science degree as a Sloan Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 2009, Post&Parcel’s sister publication Mail & Express Review held an exclusive interview with Donahoe, during the heart of the recession. Donahoe told us: “The Postal Service remains optimistic about the future. When the economy rebounds, USPS will be ready.”

That still remains to be seen.

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