Potter Appointed New Postmaster General

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Following the appointment of Jack Potter as postmaster general, mailers wasted no time urging the new head of the U.S. Postal Service to work in favor of reform and against any rate increases.

The U.S. Postal Service confirmed yesterday that Potter, chief operating officer at the USPS, will replace the retiring William Henderson as postmaster general.

Barely an hour after the announcement of Potter's appointment, mailer organizations were singing his praises but also issuing calls for Potter to board the postal-reform bandwagon. The Direct Marketing Association said it approved of the Board of Governors' choice of postmaster general and, in the same statement, invited Potter to join its reform efforts.

"Postal management must guide the postal service toward a more progressive era," said H. Robert Wientzen, DMA president. "We are confident that Potter's background qualifies him to lead the effort as the post office works to solve its present problems."

The Magazine Publishers of America welcomed Potter's appointment but urged the new postmaster general to avoid any further rate increases this year. The organization called on Potter to institute a hiring freeze, consolidate processing plants and borrow money instead.

"If these steps are implemented, there will be no need for the postal service to request another rate hike this year," said Nina Link, MPA president/CEO.

The USPS has increased postal rates twice this year, most recently approving an across-the-board increase of an average of 1.6 percent, effective July 1. The rate increases have spurred mailers to make heated calls for reform, and Rep. Danny Davis, D-IL, has introduced a resolution in Congress calling for the USPS to put off any further rate increase requests until after January.

Potter has earned the praise of the mailing industry for his knowledge of postal operations and experience with labor relations.

John Campanelli, president of R.R. Donnelley Logistics, Chicago, described Potter as a results-oriented executive whose strengths were well-suited for dealing with the USPS' biggest problems. Two of Potter's biggest challenges will be reducing the high cost of processing flat mail -- mail that exceeds the dimensions of letter-size mail -- and dealing with the postal unions, Campanelli said.

Potter's strength lies in his knowledge of the USPS' internal operations, so spending too much time on Capitol Hill lobbying for reform would be a mistake, Campanelli said. Instead, Potter could make many friends among mailers by instituting immediate reforms to boost the postal service's productivity.

"I think Jack ought to get those things into high gear as quickly as possible to forestall a rate increase in the short term," Campanelli said.

Potter will take over as postmaster general on June 1. Postal community sources in Washington predicted Potter's appointment last week.

In a statement, Potter said he was "humbled by this honor" and was looking forward to the challenges of running the postal service.

Potter, who will earn $161,200 as postmaster general, is a 23-year postal veteran and has been in his current position since Oct. 12. Before becoming chief operating officer, Potter served as the USPS senior vice president of labor relations.

Henderson, who announced in January that he would retire at the end of May, has been postmaster general since May 1998.


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