October 22, 2019 – Some have called it surprising, but we were not taken off guard when Postmaster General (PMG) Megan Brennan announced she will retire at the end of January. We were not surprised because the Postal Service has five newly minted Governors, all appointed by President Trump. (Not “most” as reported by some media.)
The two most important jobs of USPS Governors, not the full Board of Governors that includes the PMG and Deputy PMG, are to approve rate changes and hire and fire the PMG. (And there is no quorum requirement for these decisions, as some have reported.)
With a crisis declared by the two most recent PMGs, and no solution in sight, it makes sense that a new set of Governors would want their own CEO to help them turn things around. It’s just common sense—not partisan politics, not an attempt to privatize, and not animosity toward Amazon.com, as some have argued. The Governors do not run the USPS full time; that’s the job of the PMG. To carry out a redefinition and turnaround of USPS, the Governors likely concluded they need to bring in their own PMG to best implement their strategies.
The Governors intend to carry out a nationwide search for a new PMG, which probably means they want to find someone who is not a career USPS employee. It is important that the most recent PMGs have been career employees with family members who also worked at the Postal Service and belonged to postal unions. These four led the USPS for the past 21 years (1998-2019) and followed four PMGs (1986-1998) who were not career postal employees. There are strengths and weaknesses associated with both backgrounds for PMGs, and it is likely we will test the non-career model next year.
A very important skill that a new PMG brings must be the ability to work effectively with Congress and the Administration who will determine the public service role of USPS and redefine how it will be paid for. For better or worse, politicians seem to better respect and work with people with private sector credentials when it comes to leading the “businesslike” Postal Service. On the other hand, the four most recent private sector PMGs failed to obtain new legislation. The 2006 postal law was accomplished with much private sector mailer and postal union involvement, and not much USPS participation.