New executive postmaster in Columbus wants to improve delivery of shoddy mail

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Columbus has a new executive postmaster, and he’s answering questions about slow mail service in central Ohio.

For months, NBC4 Investigates has been scrambling to get answers after dozens of viewers said they went days or weeks without mail delivery.

Eric Gilbert was named executive postmaster for the city of Columbus effective April 23. He had served in that role on an interim basis since arriving in Columbus from Baltimore, Md., about four weeks ago. He said he was aware of the widespread problems with the postal service before he arrived.

“I did a little research,” Gilbert said. “Every stoppage we have as a professional, you want to know what you’re getting into.”

Two 2022 audits revealed issues with postal facilities in the Columbus area. One of them found problems with missed load scans and congestion at the fulfillment and distribution center. The other found nearly 35,000 late mail cases on a January day at a south Columbus post office.

“We have a daily cadence, or what we call a Zoom call,” Gilbert said. “We are reviewing the data. We look at our performance, particularly in digitization, what are the opportunities – unit specific, what are the barriers and what is needed to improve and improve that performance. »

Gilbert said some of the changes to improve postal operations in the Columbus area had begun before he arrived, including a change in management at the Oakland Park Post Office on Innis Road, which had gained a reputation in recent months for its uneven delivery and poor service.

“We have a stronger team within the facility, with the goal of cleaning the facility and getting mail to customers as planned,” Gilbert said. “That was the first step.”

Another step is hiring. According to the US Postal Service, 20 letter carriers have been hired in Columbus in the past six weeks. Gilbert said staffing was prioritized at facilities with the lowest tiers, including Oakland Park.

“As I visit our employees in the city of Columbus, we motivate them by assuring them that we are hiring,” Gilbert said. “We are letting people know that there will be an end to this long day with no day off situation.”

Gilbert said he’s noticed the number of customer complaints have dropped over the past month, but that doesn’t mean his job is done.

“Few organizations can say they are 246 years old and providing service to clients within their communities,” Gilbert said. “Can we improve after the 246 years? Absolutely. So we made sure that we have processes in place to ensure that all mail that needs to be delivered is clearly delivered on a daily basis.

On Friday, the USPS reported that more than 93% of first-class mail was delivered on time in April, up from around 88% by the end of 2021.

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