One of the mail industry’s most outspoken and insightful experts is retiring.
Gene Del Polito is stepping down as President of the Association of Postal Commerce (Postcom), an organization he helped build and lead over four decades. A reception honoring his retirement was held October 18 at the organization’s fall meeting in Washington, DC.
First as the executive director of the Third Class Mail Association (TCMA) in the 1980’s, Del Polito helped the organization grow to become the Advertising Mail Marketing Association in the 1990’s and the Association for Postal Commerce (Postcom) of today.
In those years as the leader of the trade group, Del Polito spoke to many hundreds of different mail industry audiences — from the DMA to the National Postal Forum to MAILCOM to PCCs and the UPU. Widely considered an expert in postal affairs, he was most appreciated for his straight-talk — some would call it brashness. But his energetic and high-spirited style was a favorite among business mail executives and managers.
His acid tongue lashed out at the Postal Service, to the joy of mailers frustrated with rising postage rates. In 2001, Gene wrote, “Postal rates have gone up yet again. Once more the ineptitude of the U.S. Postal Service has been demonstrated by its disregard of the effect postal rate increases have on companies such as yours. Have you had enough yet? Or would you like to entertain the possibility of another round of hefty postal rate increases?”
But he also defended the Postal Service, especially when it came to advertising mail. In 1987 he wrote in the New York Times, “Third-class mail adds substantial revenue to the Postal Service’s coffers, and people should be thankful for the advertising mail they find in their mailboxes. That mail helps improve the cost efficiency of the Postal Service’s operation. Without it, a first-class letter would cost a whale of a lot more than 22 cents.”
Though he has a Ph.D. and master’s degrees in audiology and speech science from Purdue University in Indiana, Gene was drawn to the mail industry early in his career and never looked back. He quickly found himself in Washington’s elite postal circles, appearing before Congress and serving for many years on the Postmaster General’s Mailers Technical Advisory Committee.
His dedication to serving the mail community — particularly advertising mail — was most evident in his journalistic endeavors. The Postcom Bulletin of today is a descendant of the TCMA Bulletin, delivered each week in the 80’s and 90’s in a 6×9 envelope and packed with the latest inside news and opinions. Only Van Seagraves Business Mailers Review rivaled it in the day.
When he wasn’t fighting for ad mail on Capitol Hill, he was fighting the use of the term “Junk Mail” — even taking MAIL Magazine to task for using the derogatory term in the early 90’s. Gene argued that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. And that direct mail serves a vital economic purpose.
Del Polito’s prescience was revealed in the the mid-2000’s when he predicted calamity faced the Postal Service and mail industry because of the internet and management issues. His predictions, made when mail was still thriving, proved accurate as the industry struggled in the ensuing years with lettershop closings and declining postal volumes.
His bookcase is full of industry honors, speaking to his wide impact on mail communications. He has received PostCom’s J. Edward Day Award, the association’s highest honor granted in recognition of “distinguished service to the nation’s postal community” as well as the Lee Epstein Award given in recognition of “outstanding service in behalf of the business mailing industry.”
Gene has also received the Franklin Award, MAILCOM’s highest honor for “outstanding service in behalf of the business mailing industry.” He was awarded the Mail Advertising Service Association’s Miles Kimball Award, the highest award MASA gives to non-members of its association in recognition of his work in behalf of the mail advertising and marketing industry.
And the Direct Marketing Club of New York bestowed the Mal Dunn Leadership Award “in recognition of his outstanding leadership and contribution to the industry.”
Though retiring as Postcom’s President, we are certain we have not heard the last from Gene Del Polito.
At least, we hope not.