County seat doesn’t own post office

James C. Miller III

As Shakespeare might have said, thou doth protest too much (“How Big Washington swiped Little Washington’s Post Office,” January 31, 2019).

What I did was caution the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) that finding an acceptable location in the Town of Washington would be problematic and that there are alternatives that could very well better serve the patrons of Zip 22747.

Was the ensuing evaluation process cloaked in mystery and deceit? No. The USPS regional representative visited the area, surveyed and evaluated proposed locations within the Town and without, talked with people who had asked to meet with him, and attended a meeting at the Town Hall hosted by the City Council at which he made a presentation, heard numerous citizens express their views, and invited all interested parties to submit their suggestions. Subsequently he heard from many postal patrons, including those insisting that the post office remain in the Town of Washington.

What was my role in this process? I contacted one of my former colleagues at USPS and discussed my concerns. And, on January 8, 2018, over coffee at the Country Cafe, I met with the regional representative when he visited the area — as did several other people.  But I did not attend the open forum that evening because Georgia (my alma mater) was playing Alabama for the national football championship. (Note: my wife, Demaris, did attend the open forum and, along with others, did speak and subsequently did respond by email to the regional representative).

Did my views carry any weight? I would hope so, given that I reside in the Zip 22747 service area and considering the knowledge I acquired as a Member of the USPS Board of Governors (including three years as chairman) during which, among other things, I initiated the introduction of the Forever Stamp.

When I met with the USPS regional representative at the diner I was assured that he would consider any and all proposals and reflect in his final report to the decision makers in Washington, D.C., the degree to which each proposal would fulfill the needs for customer convenience, employee access, mail and parcel delivery, security, et cetera — all metrics that USPS uses in site selection.  I could not have asked for more — and told him so. That was over a year ago and to the best of my recollection the last time I had any contact with USPS about the matter.

Can those most strident in this matter really contest that USPS made a thorough and objective analysis of the various proposals, that its ultimate choice is superior to the alternatives, and that their scapegoating is unwarranted?

Now, responses to just a few of the arguments made in the 150 column-inches of critical coverage the News devoted to the matter.

One: no municipality owns a post office any more than a municipality typically owns a bank, a county school, or a Walmart for that matter. These organizations locate where they can best serve their customers and other constituents.

Two: far more Zip 22747 customers reside outside the Town of Washington than reside within it, and thus leaders of the Town do not necessarily speak for everyone residing in the Zip 22747 postal area.

Three: Mrs. Moore, one of the finest (former) public servants I know, evidently took my comments to imply that I had performed a more formal survey of postal customers than I had intended. I take the blame for that. In any event, that point was clarified when I met with the USPS regional representative over a year ago.

Four: the Postal Service was very responsive to those demanding that the Zip 22747 office remain within the Town, even putting the move on hold to give proponents more time to make their case — hardly evidence of a rush to judgment

Five: rather than heap coals on USPS, we should be expressing thanks that it is willing to invest in a new, larger, and more accommodating facility for Zip 22747 customers. It is a sign of confidence in the local community that USPS is willing to commit precious capital funds to Zip 22747, especially in light of all the controversy and criticism it has encountered recently.

The writer, a resident of Rappahannock County, is former chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, former director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and former chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service.

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