The postmaster general serves as CEO of the United States Postal Service, overseeing all operations and ensuring it can “fulfill its public service mission and maintain financial sustainability well into the future.”
Stacks of boxes holding cards and letters are seen at a US Post Office sort center on December 15, 2008 in San Francisco, California.
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The position has a storied history, beginning with Benjamin Franklin in 1775. Franklin served as the country’s first postmaster general after he was appointed by the Continental Congress.
A statue of Benjamin Franklin.
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The position existed even before the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the US Constitution in 1789.
Over the next two centuries, the role gained significant power within the federal government. In 1828, President Andrew Jackson made it part of the Cabinet, placing the role in line for succession.
Andrew Jackson portrait on twenty dollar bill.
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Jackson also started the practice of replacing postal workers, which at the time comprised a vast amount of government jobs, with party loyalists. This continued until President Richard Nixon halted such efforts in 1969.
Source: Reader’s Digest
In 1971, USPS officially was formed as an independent agency within the executive branch, part of a reorganization of the centuries-old Post Office Department. As part of this shift, the postmaster general was pulled from the Cabinet.
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Source: USPS, Reader’s Digest
The postmaster general is now elected by the USPS Board of Governors, an 11-person group selected by the president and advised by the Senate.
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But just because the postmaster general is no longer part of the Cabinet, doesn’t mean the position doesn’t still hold significant power and gravitas.
A United States Postal Service (USPS) mail box stands in Manhattan on August 05, 2020 in New York City.
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The position of postmaster general is currently held by Louis DeJoy, appointed by the USPS Board of Governors under former President Donald Trump in 2020.
U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., August 24, 2020
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Today, the postmaster general is the second-highest-paid federal government employee after the president. In 2021, DeJoy made a base salary of $305,681, which along with performance bonuses, totaled $480,985, according to USPS data.
United States Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy speaks during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Washington
Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP
Source: USPS 10-K Report, The Center for Public Integrity
By comparison, President Joe Biden’s base salary is $400,000, while Vice President Kamala Harris’s is $235,100.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
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DeJoy’s 2021 salary drew criticism from some, amid internal turmoil at the organization in 2020 due to policy adjustments and cost-cutting efforts that slowed mail service.
A USPS logo is seen on a mailbox
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Source: Associated Press
DeJoy also faced criticism from the Biden administration and the Environmental Protection Agency for ignoring requests to electrify the USPS fleet.
A USPS mail worker wearing a mask wheels a priority mail and Amazon package near a USPS truck as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on August 20, 2020 in New York City.
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Source: The New York Times
Ultimately, Biden does not have the authority to remove DeJoy, though he did make appointments for vacancies to the USPS Board of Governors shortly after he was elected.
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DeJoy has no plans to resign, telling CNN in 2021 that he intends to stay in the role “a long time, get used to me.”
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