U.S. Postmaster General John E. Potter will retire after leading the Postal Service through one of the most tumultuous decades in its history, from the operating changes triggered by the September 11 terror attacks to the fundamental shift in mailing patterns in a newly wired world.
The USPS said Patrick R. Donahue, now deputy postmaster general and chief operating officer, would become the country’s 73rd postmaster general on Potter’s retirement Dec. 3.
Donahue, who started at the Postal Service as a clerk in Pittsburgh in 1975, took charge of all mail operations in 2001 and has held his current post since 2005.
He’ll take the reins of the world’s largest postal organization along with the billions of dollars in losses that have come from the dramatic changes in the postal landscape over the last 10 years.
Those include persistent declines in mail volume as households and businesses have pushed large numbers of their letters, bills and other communications to the Internet.
Potter has met those changes by cutting some $20 billion in operating costs and more than 200,000 jobs in his nine-and-a-half years as postmaster general. He has also pressed a modernization effort that includes greater use of automation and information technology, creating what the USPS calls a leaner, more flexible and efficient organization.
He also overhauled the once fierce competition the USPS had with private express carriers, overseeing efforts to increase the Postal Service’s use of FedEx and UPS as outsourced delivery networks while raising the standards of delivery services the USPS gets from airlines and trucking companies.
But the extensive restructuring has not brought the Postal Service financial health. The USPS has reported a string of multi-billion-dollar losses in recent years and is saddled with a crushing pension contribution burden and the Postal Service has not been able to get Congress to approve relief from the payment obligations.