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A Postmaster Goes to War Against His General

Employees take aim at a plan to close thousands of post offices

Mark Strong will happily tell you he knows quite a bit more about the post office than the average person. He should. He began his career with the U.S. Postal Service 34 years ago at a rural post office in Montana. Today he is postmaster of Sun City, Ariz., where he commands the country’s largest bike delivery fleet. Strong is also president of the National League of Postmasters of the U.S. It is in this capacity that he is leading a postmasters’ revolt against U.S. Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe’s plan to close as many as 3,650 post offices in hopes of staunching the financial losses at his agency. Strong has testified before Congress, warning that closing post offices will leave millions of people without easy access to a basic service. His members have also embarked on a campaign to enlist the public’s help in fighting the closures.

There are more than 26,000 post offices in the U.S. Nearly every one has its own postmaster. Naturally, Strong’s colleagues aren’t thrilled with Donahoe’s cost-cutting efforts, which would mean fewer of their positions. But Strong insists his campaign isn’t merely about self-preservation. He says Donahoe’s plan would be catastrophic for small towns, where the post office often serves as a quasi-community center and information hub. “Rural areas, they only have the post office,” Strong says. “They don’t have banks. Many of them don’t even have cell phone service, let alone the Internet.” Eliminate the post offices in these places, and you might as well wipe them off the map, he argues, perhaps a bit melodramatically.