2006 Citizen Services

Robin E. Ware

Led the quick and full recovery of mail service to the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night stays postal couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. But what about once-in-a-lifetime hurricanes? The U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) unofficial motto was tested like never before after Hurricane Katrina. Thanks to 27-year Postal Service veteran Robin Ware, the USPS passed this exam with flying colors.

Robin Ware was on special assignment as the plant manager at the Gulfport, Mississippi Processing & Distribution Center when Hurricane Katrina hit. Not only did she restore mail service more quickly than commercial competitors like UPS, FEDEX or DHL, she established the heavily damaged USPS facility as a disaster command center, personally overseeing the search-and-account efforts for almost 800 USPS employees. The accomplishment is even more amazing considering she had only arrived in Gulfport three weeks before as part of an executive development program.

Under Ware’s direction, the Gulfport USPS facility was a notable exception to the numerous other organizations that struggled to restore critical services to the area devastated by the hurricane. On the morning after the hurricane, Ware found the Center flooded with water containing snakes. There was no power and a collapsed ceiling.

For Ms. Ware, restoring mail service meant first helping her employees. She worked tirelessly with relief agencies to provide postal workers with food, clothing and housing. She established the facility as a central point for emergency services for postal employees. In the process, she also inspired this demoralized workforce, many of whom were suffering from the loss of their homes, cars, and even family members.

By day two after the storm, she had helped establish distribution sites, in some cases temporary mail boxes under the highway, to distribute public assistance and social security checks to those who no longer had physical addresses. She had also re-established mail collection and delivery where possible. By day 13, the Center was fully operational and complete mail service was restored.

It is worth noting that Robin Ware was already earning recognition for her outstanding public service before Hurricane Katrina ever struck.

She is the manager of customer service for the Postal Service’s Business Service Network. These are the USPS’s 14,000 largest business customers, representing more than $38 billion in annual revenue. In this position, she transformed the way USPS partners with these clients, implementing new technologies that provide customers with easier access to postal services. By leveraging the power of technology, she was able to increase her unit’s workload 25 percent despite a 20 percent reduction in the size of her workforce. Ware accepted the 2004 E-Gov Institute’s Pioneer Award and was named Accenture’s Women’s Leadership—Government Rising Leader in 2005 for this work with the Business Service Network.

A key to Robin Ware’s success is that she doesn’t approach her work as if it were just another job, because, for her, it really isn’t. Her father worked for the Postal Service, and she began working for the USPS at age 17, where she has been climbing the ladder ever since. She has a deep personal commitment to the Postal Service and its public mission, and it shows in her work. Maybe there is a force out there that can prevent Robin Ware from getting the job done and done right, but don’t count on it.