New postmaster general vows to create change
April 2, 2015
By DEBORAH McCASLIN
Chief Executive Editor | Custer County Chief, Broken Bow, NE
WASHINGTON—The new U.S. postmaster general has inherited a massive operation, with an even larger breadth of problems, but during a news conference with members of the National Newspaper Association in Washington, she noted that she’s up to the challenge.
“I started my day today like I do every day … by reading the news. I read three, four newspapers every day, holding the paper in my hands, not with a handheld device. That’s my preferred way of absorbing the news,” said Megan Brennan, the first female postmaster general in the history of the U.S. Postal Service.
No doubt other forms of news delivery are also part of her daily diet—but when addressing a room full of newspaper people, that’s not a bad way to start a speech.
Brennan was a postal carrier. She started her career as a letter carrier in Lancaster, PA, and used to deliver the very papers she mentioned. She attended Immaculata College in Pennsylvania and MIT.
She recited the hard facts of USPS, but there is a distinct difference between her approach and the one of her predecessor, Pat Donahoe. He was busy being worried about the Postal Service’s bottom line. But that came at the expense of rural America.
Brennan is taking a different approach. She talked about the importance of community and how post offices intertwine with these communities. She also said USPS needs to create a way to track the newspapers that flow through its system.
“You can’t fix what you can’t see,” she said.
She noted that there is a lot of turnover in the Postal Service, and there is a need to up the ante when it comes to training. Brennan said accountability and service standards are important. She added that if the Postal Service says it’s going to deliver a piece of mail in X number of days, it needs to deliver it in X number of days.
Service standards have been adjusted and re-adjusted—so don’t expect the standards of a couple of years ago, much less 10 years ago, she noted.
Brennan provided her contact info to the NNA members at the news conference and said don’t hesitate to call.
She is cognizant of what newspapers have to deal with at sorting centers and the distance they have to travel just to go a few miles down the road.
She asked for NNA members’ help by engaging their senators and representatives in Congress while they were in town for the summit.
“If we can get rid of the mandated pre-funding of the postal retirement plan, the rest of the books don’t look too bad,” she added.
Brennan is asking for a relaxation of the $5 billion annual health care payment imposed by the Bush administration. What makes this health care payment unique and unwieldy is that it requires the USPS to pre-fund employees so far out that some of these individuals have not only not been hired yet, but they have yet to be born. If Congress would shift the USPS retirees to Medicare Part B, it would eliminate the need for the Postal Service to contribute simultaneously to two health care funds for each employee.
When asked if she has gotten used to being called general, she said, “No, I haven’t, and I don’t intend to. I really prefer Megan.”
As this nation’s 74th postmaster general and head of the world’s largest postal organization, she said not to expect overnight miracles, but do expect change. And do anticipate down-the-road progress.