Runyon Addresses Governors for Last Time

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While most mailers were biting their nails wondering whether the U.S. Postal Service's Board of Governors would announce a new postmaster general at its meeting earlier this week, no clues were forthcoming.

Rumors began late last month that Michael S. Coughlin, deputy postmaster general, would succeed Marvin Runyon and that the announcement would be made at the board meeting. The possible choice of Coughlin, a career postal employee who has served at all levels of the organization, received mixed reviews from the mailing community.

According to reports, chairman Sam Winters opened the meeting by saying the "search for the next PMG is ongoing. [We are] making substantial progress. [A decision will be announced] in the very near future."

USPS spokesman Roy Betts said a decision may not come before May 15, Runyon's last day.

Some industry experts said the waiting game is a good thing.

"The board is being very, very through in its process," said Cary H. Baer, chairman of the Advertising Mail Marketing Association. "They want to make sure that they interview all potential candidates."

Meanwhile, Runyon updated the audience on the state of affairs at the USPS: For three straight years -- and through the first half of fiscal 1998 -- it has continued to improve its service and financial performance, it is seeing improvements in its two-and three-day service commitments and managers are improving efficiencies in processing, dispatching and delivering nonlocal mail.

In addition, the board approved several capital investment funding initiatives, including:

* $53.7 million to cover increased capital investment costs in the first stage of the Point-of-Service ONE program that will place retail terminals in local post offices to improve customer service and provide the USPS with comprehensive marketing information about its customers.

* 254 Remote Computer Reader Handwriting Recognition upgrades, which will increase the automated processing percentages of the 13 billion pieces of mail that are handwritten every year. Upgrade deployment, which begins in July, is scheduled to be competed by February. The board didn't approve the amount of money to be appropriated because the USPS still is bidding for a contractor to supply the equipment.

* $16.7 million for two delivery distribution centers that will improve mail-sorting operations in the Phoenix area and $33.3 million for a 10-year lease, with two five-year options, for a 350,000-square-foot annex hub in Minneapolis.

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