SOME years before he ever imagined himself in his new position as the nation's postmaster general, Anthony M. Frank had lunch with then-Postmaster General Paul N. Carlin. ``I remember asking him, `How much money do you make?' And he said, `$82,000.' And I said, `That's a dime an employee.'''
``I could see I just kind of ruined his day,'' says Mr. Frank, with the ready chuckle of an accomplished storyteller.
Now Frank occupies the large corner office at the headquarters of the United States Postal Service (USPS), and things have improved: At $99,500 a year, and with a work force of 761,531, Frank makes 13 cents per employee.
His own compensation, however, is the least of his worries. He knew when he took the job that public-sector rewards were different from those at First Nationwide Financial Corporation, which Frank built from a small northern California bank in 1971 to one of the nation's largest savings institutions before selling it to the Ford Motor Company in 1985.
He still thinks of himself as builder. These days, however, he's more concerned about continuity. The USPS has run through five postmasters general in as many years. Frank, who took over from Preston R. Tisch on March 1, hopes to stay three to five years, so as to help turn around the sagging public image of the USPS.
``You ask the average American about the Postal Service,'' said Frank recently in a lengthy interview in his office, ``and he'll say, `Rates going up, service going down.'''
``That's exactly right,'' he adds, although he notes that ``it would take a political scientist to explain to the American people that [these two issues] are not related.'' The April 3 rate increase came from the Postal Rate Commission, an independent body. The service cuts, which trimmed post-office window hours, Sunday pickups, and some other functions, came in response to an entirely separate congressional budgetary action last fall.
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