Patrick Donahoe, who spent most of his four years as postmaster general fighting with Congress, will retire Feb. 1 and will be replaced by the first woman ever to head the United States Postal Service.
Megan J. Brennan, a career postal employee like Donahoe, will become the nation’s 74th postmaster general next year.
She is the third consecutive postal executive selected as the agency’s chief executive who has come up through the ranks as a mail operations specialist.
Her selection was announced Nov. 14 by the U.S. Postal Service board of governors at a meeting dominated by concerns over the federal agency’s continuing financial problems.
Donahoe’s departure was not that big of a surprise, but Brennan’s selection was.
The fact that the governors announced both Donahoe’s resignation and her selection at the same meeting indicates that the governors had been wrestling with how to replace Donahoe in their private meetings.
The agency disclosed at the governors meeting that it has recorded its eighth consecutive annual loss — $5.5 billion in fiscal 2014 — despite a decrease in number of employees and an increase in stamp prices.
Members of the presidentially appointed governors praised Donahoe’s four years at the helm of the agency.
“Pat was the calm in the financial storm,” said Mickey D. Barnett, board chairman.
“He ignored the naysayers and went forward with his team and built a compressing plan for the future of the organization, made tough decisions, and executed against these decisions.”
A career postal employee who began his 39-year career as a clerk in Pittsburgh Donahoe was appointed to the top job after serving as deputy postmaster general under John (Jack) Potter.
Both Potter and Donahoe worked together on a number of problems, most notably a collapse in the Washington, D.C., mail system that threatened the then-postmaster general Marvin T. Runyon. But the problem that neither Potter nor Donahoe were able to resolve was the agency’s finances.
A 2006 law that Potter backed saddled the Postal Service with a burden no other federal agency had faced: prepaying the health care costs of its future retirees.That was not a problem as long as first-class mail continued to grow and shoulder the USPS’ costs.With the 2008 financial crisis, mail volume plummeted and so did the agency’s finances.
Donahoe spent much of his time pleading with members of Congress to relieve the agency of these costs.
On the retail front, Donahoe tried to move the organization away from its dependence on first-class mail and toward packages.
“The organization has a lot of momentum right now, and we’re doing a lot to innovate and improve the way we serve the public and our customers,” he said as he announced his retirement. “The nature of delivery is changing dramatically, and the Postal Service will continue to be an important part of those changes.”
Barnett praised Brennan for her role as chief operations officer of the agency.
He cited her efforts to help the agency begin Sunday deliveries, improve its tracking of mail pieces and “rationalizing our mail processing, delivery and retail operations.”
She was named chief operating officer in December 2010, and previously headed the agency’s eastern area operations.