Thursday, April 26, 2018
Business

U.S. Postal Service will retain St. Petersburg's postmark, officials say

ST. PETERSBURG — After pressure from local business and political leaders, the U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that it will not be removing the "Saint Petersburg" name from the postmark on outgoing mail.

The Postal Service announced last week it would close the main St. Petersburg mail processing center this year and route outgoing mail through the Tampa center instead.

Spokeswoman Enola Rice said then that the postmark would lose any reference to St. Petersburg and would be replaced by "Tampa" or something else to reflect the region. She said residents could still request the local postmark at post office counters.

But city officials said that violated an agreement reached years ago to keep the St. Petersburg name in the postmark, which currently reads "Tampa FL 335 Saint Petersburg FL."

Local leaders quickly mounted a campaign against the proposed move. U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young said he faxed a letter on Tuesday to the Postmaster General asking him to retain the St. Petersburg postmark.

"The letter said, 'Hey, you made a commitment,' " Young said Wednesday evening. "I expect you to keep it."

The Postal Service issued a news release Wednesday afternoon saying the postmark will remain the same — even after mail processing operations move from St. Petersburg to Tampa sometime after May.

It was unclear Wednesday just how at risk the St. Petersburg postmark was.

Rice on Wednesday said when the Postal Service made its national announcements about distribution center closures last week, officials "hadn't gotten to the postmark part of it yet."

"We have reviewed the postmark after the Feb. 23 announcement, and it will remain as it presently reads," she said.

Former Mayor Rick Baker said the removal of St. Petersburg would have violated an agreement reached between the city and the Postal Service in 2007 to keep the name on the postmark. Current Mayor Bill Foster also said the postmaster had promised him the same thing a few months ago during a conversation about the closure of the processing center.

That galvanized city leaders to lobby for St. Petersburg staying on the postmark.

Ed Montanari, a local pilot and former City Council candidate, on Monday called a meeting of other movers and shakers — including Baker and representatives from the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Leadership St. Petersburg.

The group's strategy was simple: to put pressure on postal officials to keep the existing postmark, Montanari said.

"If all of a sudden your name is wiped out, whether it's on a postmark or an interstate sign, you lose your brand," Montanari said.

Word spread and people from several community groups were asked to contact the Postal Service and Young's office.

Montanari said Baker called him Wednesday afternoon to say that the group's efforts had paid off.

"It's exciting for us," he said. "It may not seem like it's a big deal, but … having St. Petersburg on a stamp, it's just another way to market our community."

Baker said it is possible that current postal officials were just unaware of the previous promise to city leaders.

"I think that's what happened — that they became aware that this commitment had already been made," Baker said. "I think they made the right decision."

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