Postmasters: Miller-Time Comes to an End

 Excerpts from eNAPUS Legislative & Political Bulletin

On Wednesday morning, the USPS Board of Governors elected Alan Kessler as Chairman, to succeed James Miller III. At the same meeting, the Board also elected Carolyn Gallagher as Vice Chairman. It is anticipated that Chairman Kessler will conduct legislative business more akin to the way in which former Chairman David Fineman did, rather than use the tactics employed by Chairman Miller.

Miller’s 3-year tenure coincided with one of the most pivotal postal periods in 3 decades. He presided over an agency undergoing epic change. Miller opposed many of these changes and, as a result, irked key Members of Congress. Chairman Miller argued that an empowered postal regulator weakens the Board’s authority and its ability to implement Postal policy. Moreover, Miller’s reputation, dating back to his days as President Reagan’s Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, and as Director of the Office of Management and Budget kept postal employee groups on guard against USPS efforts to privatize and subject itself to free-market conditions, irrespective of its civic mission.

The consensus is that Chairman Kessler will be more like fellow Philadelphian and former Chairman David Fineman, than Miller. Postal observers note that during Fineman’s Board tenure, he tended to low-key and contemplative, unlike Jim Miller. It would not be surprising if, during their 4 years together on the Board of Governors, they shared postal insight aboard the approximately 2-hour Amtrak commute between Philly and DC. Most importantly, Kessler is connected to Democratic politics, and does not carry the same ideological views as does Chairman Miller.

A sidebar to the election of Govs. Kessler and Gallagher is the expiration date of their terms – Kessler at the end of 2008 and Gallagher the end of 2009. Although the Chairman and Vice Chairman are elected to one-year terms, individuals tend to serve 2 or 3 years. For Kessler to serve out more than 1 year as Chairman, he would have to be re-nominated by President Bush at the end of his term, nominated by the new President, or serve for no more than one year past December 2008, pending a new appointment. The question is: What happens if the next President continues to be a Republican? Would that individual want Vice Chairman Gallagher to become the Chair? – in which case, the President would appoint someone other than Kessler to the Board, at the expiration of 2008. Mrs. Gallagher brings particular interests to the table. After all, she served as Chair of the Subcommittee on the Workforce of the President’s Commission on the USPS. Among her Subcommittee’s recommendations were: putting into practice the “last best and final offer”, as part of labor arbitration; bargaining for total compensation, including health coverage and retirement benefits; subjecting postal employee compensation to regulatory review; and implementing pay-for-performance for all employees.