Friday, March 28, 2003

City's new postmaster takes oath

Denise Porter becomes first woman to hold job in Cincinnati

By Cliff Radel
The Cincinnati Enquirer


For 209 years, 38 men have made sure the mail gets delivered in Cincinnati. That changes today.

And somewhere in heaven a mailman is beaming.

Denise Porter takes the oath of office as the city's 39th postmaster during a 3 p.m. ceremony at the Museum Center at Union Terminal.

The Seattle native and letter carrier's daughter is the first woman to hold the position in the Queen City. She replaces John Mulkay, Cincinnati's postmaster since 1999, who retired in January.

Porter moves fast. She has already changed the way her nearly 1,700 employees answer the phone. Hello isn't enough. Now, they must say:

"Thank you for calling the Cincinnati post office, where the customer comes first."

Porter explained the change.

"I'm very people-oriented. I want people to know serving the customer is what we're all about."

She also wants people to know her top goal is to make Cincinnati No. 1 in customer service "within the United States Postal Service nationwide. I don't believe in being No. 2 at anything."

The Cincinnati post is Porter's second first. In 2000, she became the first female postmaster for New Haven, Conn.

The post office started delivering mail in that New England city in 1789, when George Washington was president. Five years later, with Washington still in charge, the mail first arrived in these parts.

That was so long ago, Cincinnati had yet to become a city and Ohio was still part of the Northwest Territory.

Porter never visited Cincinnati before she was interviewed for the postmaster's job. She knew about the city's reputation "from some of the race issues that were on the television when I was in Connecticut."

"But I have certainly experienced none of that here," she added.

Since moving to town and settling in Blue Ash, Porter has three words for the area: "I love it."

She has traveled and worked "all over the country and I can honestly say I've never been in a city where the people have been more welcoming. I feel like I've come home. And I'm going to say that during my installation ceremony."

People hearing her say that are going to be there from the towns where she's lived and worked. Co-workers from Chicago; Long Beach, Calif.; and New Haven - and family members, including her brothers David, Daniel and Wallace.

Porter hopes no one takes offense at her love of Cincinnati.

"I have to tell the truth," she said.

The future postmaster started working for the post office in 1978. Her first job title: computerized mark-up clerk.

"That means I worked in a unit that applied those yellow stickers you get on your mail when it's forwarded."

She's never walked door-to-door delivering mail.

But she appreciates the job. For 30-plus years, her dad worked as a letter carrier in Long Beach, where Porter grew up.

She remembers him coming home and "telling us how he loved his work."

Her father lived to see her promoted, first to supervisor and then to her first postmaster's job in Bellflower, Calif.

"His big dream was to become a supervisor," she said, "and he never did. For his daughter to become a postmaster put him over the moon.

"I wonder what he'd think about his little girl becoming the postmaster of Cincinnati, Ohio.

"What would he do if he knew? Somehow I'd like to think he knows."


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