The stamp services staff at United States Postal Service headquarters may have shrunk to 15, but it can still have a powerful impact.
That's the reason Mary-Anne Penner said she has wanted to run the stamp program for a long time.
On April 11 she got her wish when Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan selected the 31-year career postal employee to take charge of the stamp program.
"Stamp services was always fascinating," Penner told Linn's in an April 22 interview. "It's the one place where you can have an impact on American history and history overall."
Stamps may be small, she said, but "you're that little piece of history" when you help select stamps for the world's biggest postal agency.
That feeling, she said, was renewed when she recently walked through the William Gross Gallery at the National Postal Museum.
"Wow, I was part of this," Penner said, recalling her previous service with stamp services when it was a much larger agency.
But today with the entire postal bureaucracy shrinking because of falling revenues, Penner said she is happy to be head of the stamp program.
In the interview, she acknowledged criticisms that some former members of the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee have voiced about current stamp selections.
But Penner said she was impressed by how the committee is now working.
"I support CSAC - what they go through and how they select stamps - 150 percent," she said.
"It is a great process," she said. "They do a phenomenal job. They do represent the American public."
As for her own goals for the stamp program, Penner said: "I just really would like to see us continue to celebrate American people, culture and history. To make sure the stamp program is balanced in subjects. ..."
"I know we do 20 to 25 limited-edition commemorative stamps a year," she said. "I think right now that is a good number."
"It is a workable number," Penner said, noting that a major rate change in stamp prices could produce more stamps in a year.
"You know, I'm too new in the position to give you a good, solid answer."
Penner also recalled her success as a postmaster at Fort Meade, Md., holding new stamp ceremonies for the Buffalo Soldiers 29¢ stamp in 1994 and working last year in the stamp development office.
Her favorites of 2014 were the four Hudson River School forever Stamps and the 10 Songbirds forever stamps, she said.
"I love art so I really love those stamps," Penner said.
"I'm a big proponent of flag stamps," she also added.
"Do I collect stamps?" she asked. "Yes and no."
She is not "formally" a collector, but she does keep stamps she likes.
"I have more of an art collection," she said.
"When my son was a toddler, which was 20 years ago, the Looney Tunes [stamps] came out. So his whole nursery was decorated with Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes [stamps] because they were absolutely gorgeous."
When the Arctic Animals stamps were issued in 1999, Penner had first-day covers framed and they still hang in a living room.
The new stamp director said she recently opened a box filled with uncirculated coins and stamps collected by her late father. "It was a glimpse back into his things ... beautiful things that he collected" like the flowers in his garden, she said.
"Stamps are art and they are a wonderful way to express your inner self," she said.
"What I would like to tell stamp collectors is please send in stamp subjects to the CSAC," she said. "Every single letter is read."
"We want to honor the American public and do what they would like to do," Penner said.
She said he would like nothing more than to "get kids back into the stamp program" and would love to be able to revive the old Ben Franklin stamp clubs that the USPS used to offer school groups.
Even getting stamps that could be soaked off envelopes would be nice, she said.
"May be something we can figure out."
(In addition to 15 headquarter personnel, stamp services includes 223 stamp fulfillment personnel in Kansas City.)
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