Stepping Into the Fishbowl

Last Tuesday, June 16, Louis DeJoy was sworn in as the 75th Postmaster General. Since his May 6 appointment by the Postal Service’s Board of Governors he’d spend weeks working with retiring PMG Megan Brennan, getting briefed on the agency he would be leading. Now the job was his.

Thanks and greetings

One of his first actions was to announce that his predecessor would be receiving the Benjamin Franklin Award, the Postal Service’s highest honor.  As reported on the agency’s Link, DeJoy stated in a video message to employees that Brennan has dedicated her life and career to the United States Postal Service, adding that

“Over the past five years, she has provided the Postal Service with strong and steady leadership under some of the most challenging circumstances. …

“Over the past six weeks, she has been an invaluable resource to me – sharing her knowledge, enthusiasm and advice.  And I know I will continue to call on that advice as I move forward in this job. … I can think of no one more deserving of this honor, and who is more deserving of our respect and admiration.  Megan, we thank you for everything you have given to the Postal Service and the American public.”

DeJoy added comments appropriate to the occasion:

“Over the past several months, the importance of the United States Postal Service has been more apparent than ever. … This institution helps to bind our nation together, delivering mail and packages to a nation that has largely been forced to stay at home.  We are critical to our national economy and millions of small businesses and their employees, and we are the ‘face’ of the federal government to millions of Americans who count on us to deliver information, census forms and mail-in ballots. …

“I did not accept this position in spite of these challenges, I accepted this position because of them – and because I want to work with you in addressing them.  I want to put this institution on a trajectory for success.

“We stand on the shoulders and of the men and women who built this institution, who grew it and who maintained it. … And we pledge to them – and I pledge to you – that we will continue to make the United States Postal Service a great institution worthy of its standing.”

Real work

It’s likely that DeJoy began thinking about what he’d do as PMG as he was going through the selection process, that his ideating turned to serious study once he was formally appointed, and that the past few weeks under Megan Brennan’s tutelage have enabled many of his thoughts to crystallize into more definite plans.

But now the real work has begun, as has his period of public evaluation.  Depending on each observer’s preconceptions of what DeJoy was appointed to do, any “honeymoon” period, when he might get viewed less critically, may last from zero to thirty or sixty days or even longer.  Regardless, there will be an announcement – regarding policy, personnel, products, and services, or something else consequential to the USPS – that will be the fork in the road.  After that, he will have fundamentally revealed the direction in which he will take the Postal Service, and will have gained or lost supporters as a result.

In some quarters, he’s already been tagged with certain attitudes and policy inclinations because of his political background and affiliations, and the political subscript of his selection.  Those preconceptions assume his alignment with the administration, but that will be clarified, one way or the other, by how well he’ll toe its line, and whether he’s effective in getting any legislative help for the Postal Service.

He’ll also need to establish himself early with the postal unions, likely predisposed to be leery of him because of his political background and because he’s an outsider.  The unions are unlikely to give him any slack and will test his ability to deal with organized labor.

The most varied and Balkanized constituency he’ll face is the mailing industry, with dozens of associations and sometimes conflicting interests.  Just the same, those are the people who bring his enterprise the lion’s share of its revenue, whose support he needs, and who can make his tenure easier or more difficult depending on whether he gives them lip service or engages them sincerely.

By this time in August, any questions all may be answered.

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