Panel Chair Has Window Into Postal Service

By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia, is well versed in the concerns of postal workers.

His mother, Anne, worked as a postal clerk for a quarter-century in South Boston, where Lynch was born and raised and where he continues to live with his family. He still frequently hears his mother's views on the subject.

"Her mantra is: Just remember those folks who go out and sort the mail every day," Lynch said. "She's someone who felt that postal employees didn't get a fair shake in the public eye, and that's something that comes home to me."

In case Lynch forgets his mother's admonitions, two of his sisters work for the post office, his brother-in-law is a letter carrier, and another dozen members of his extended family are either current or retired postal workers.

With eight years of service on the subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over matters affecting the federal workforce, Lynch said he is familiar with many of the issues facing employees, and not just postal workers. "I've had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with lots of federal employees, and they're not shy about letting me know what their concerns are," Lynch said.

Lynch said the subcommittee faces urgent matters, including the budget shortfall facing the U.S. Postal Service, which has suggested it may need to cut delivery to five days a week. That proposal has received a dim reception in Congress.

The subcommittee will also be looking into the disclosure this week that Postmaster General John E. Potter received a compensation and retirement package of more than $800,000 in 2008. The Washington Times reported Tuesday that the new compensation package, much of it deferred to later years, comes on top of a $263,575 annual salary.

"Given the losses the postal service is reporting and the downturn of the economy, that pay is not in line with performance," Lynch said.

The subcommittee also will probably hold hearings addressing the recruitment and retention challenges facing the aging federal workforce. "We have some of our best people considering retirement," Lynch said. "There's quite a pool of talent that might be going out the door in the next three or four years."

But Lynch said the nation's financial crisis will make it difficult for the subcommittee to pursue many avenues of reform. "The way we're spending money right now, it may be a tall order to get attention to some of these other pressing needs," he said.

With Congress focused on the economic crisis, Lynch noted, some of the oversight panel's staff is being pressed into service on related legislative matters.

Making progress on repairing the federal government will require "a targeted and tailored effort," Lynch said, adding: "We need to really be smart about this. We don't need to be wasting money."

Another concern Lynch cited is improving minority representation at the Senior Executive Service level. "We need to make sure that all employees have equal opportunity," he said.

Lynch wants a review of all employee benefit plans. "We need to give them more flexibility and make that whole system a little more transparent," he said.

Lynch replaces Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), who has been given a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company