In her first public action as the nation’s 74th postmaster general, Megan J. Brennan promised postal workers she would seek to tap technology to help save the United States Postal Service from its continuing financial difficulties.
Brennan’s “Dear Postal Colleagues” letter was the only clue the USPS provided to the postmaster general’s first full workday in Washington on Feb. 2.
Spokeswoman Toni DeLancey said the low-key start of Brennan’s tenure at L’Enfant Plaza was similar to the way her predecessor, Patrick Donahoe, started his service in 2010.
A more festive first day will come March 6 when the nation’s first female PMG is installed with an elaborate public ceremony, DeLancey said.
While Brennan’s first days may have marked a less visible start than previous PMGs, she was planning to take part in a public meeting of the Board of Governor’s emergency committee and announce the agency’s first quarter financial results.
Postal watchers, however, got no clue in her first day as to how she will want to proceed on Donahoe’s controversial effort to save money by consolidating 82 more mail processing plants or seeking financial help from Congress.
“She’s not a spotlight seeker,” said Gene Del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce, a group composed of major mailers.
“She’s low key and operationally focused,” he said.
“Reports are coming in even from my members that service has suffered,” Del Polito told Linn's.
“When you add this to the criticisms she’s had to hear from Congress, I would imagine that her first priority would be to do everything she can to smooth out all the rough spots from closures, consolidations and network redesign,” he said.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who tried to push a postal bill through the last Congress, did express delight on Brennan’s first day in office that President Obama had urged Congress in his latest budget to “protect Saturday delivery until total mail volume drops below 140 billion pieces per year.”
Another Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee that oversees the USPS welcomed Brennan with a warning that the agency’s delivery standards “have become a disaster for USPS.”
Sen. Jon Tester of Montana said he told the new PMG: “I live in the sticks and I’m telling you the Postal Service is critically important for rural America.”
“Folks around the country rely on the mail every day for essential deliveries,” Tester added.
“I was pleased to meet Ms. Brennan and I look forward to continuing our dialogue to restore mail delivery standards in rural America,” he said.
Brennan’s letter to workers didn’t address those issues.
She did say: “We continue to take prudent steps to bring our costs and revenues into better alignment.”
She promised to invest in “long-overdue improvements to our infrastructure, including upgrading our vehicle fleet and deploying advanced package sortation equipment.” Those steps should please big mailers such as Amazon.
“We will speed the pace of innovation,” Brennan said, promising more “new delivery options” including ones for small businesses.
She also promised to “develop strategies to better engage and empower employees.”
“We will also build the most efficient and productive network to support our growth products,” Brennan said.
The biggest hint of change ahead came when she said “the way we are structured today and the way we serve the public today will not be adequate to fully meeting the demands of tomorrow’s marketplace.”
What changes Brennan wants were not spelled out in her two-page letter.
Like her immediate predecessors, Brennan comes from the mail-processing side of the USPS.
That probably means she has plenty of ideas about Donahoe’s plans to continue closing processing plants.
But to succeed she will also have to realize that Tester represents not only Montana but a number of Western and rural legislators from both parties who are troubled over the slower mail service that Donahoe established.
She’ll also have to address the same concerns of big mailers who are part of Del Polito’s organization.