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Working to Ensure NAPS' Voice Grows Stronger
In the first of three interviews with the NAPS resident officers, President Brian Wagner talks about the challenges dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, working with a new PMG and what he hopes to accomplish in his last year in office. Interview conducted by Karen Young, NAPS editor.
Q: Planning for the 2020 National Convention was humming along according to schedule, then, suddenly, the convention was postponed to 2021. You have had to completely shift gears. How is that effort progressing?
A: It would have been great to have had our traditional biennial NAPS national convention this August. However, due the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and safety of our members, Auxiliary and guests must come first. Generally, the shift in our convention process is going pretty well.
Fortunately, by partnering in advance with our conference planner, Sheri Davies of ConferenceDirect, we completed much of the national convention pre-planning requirements, including the agenda. Once the decision was made to postpone the convention to August 2021, we shifted gears immediately.
We quickly messaged to the members, updated the convention registration section of the NAPS website and entered into a new contract for next August, to name just a few. We still have some work to do, but, overall, it was a team effort to ensure this dramatic shift was happening with minimal drama.
We look forward to making our 67th NAPS National Convention a great success, even if we have to wait another year. It will be worth the wait.
Q: Looking ahead to when, hopefully, society and businesses reopen, we hear things will change regarding social interaction—being close and shaking hands, for example. What changes do you foresee for the convention as a result of this pandemic?
A: Again, the safety and health of our attendees are the primary focus. To account for social distancing, we are expanding our convention floor space with greater space between tables and chairs during the business sessions. The convention hall will have bottled water instead of water coolers. Also, expect plenty of hand sanitizer stations strategically placed throughout the convention center. Our food functions will be reworked to provide more dining space, with a focus on grab-n-go and sit-down meals—no buffets.
Although we love to see everyone’s smiling faces, we plan to provide masks/face coverings for those who wish to wear them. It will be a personal choice to wear the coverings—not a requirement.
Look for additional signage encouraging social distancing and avoiding handshakes and hugs. We know that will be a challenge; NAPS members are known to hug. The best way to go is elbow-to-elbow.
In addition, the Gaylord Texan Resort is making social distancing modifications regarding elevator limits, enhancing cleaning throughout the entire resort with hospital-grade disinfectants, adding partitions at the front desks and spacing between resort furniture and modifying restaurant seating for more comfort and social distancing.
As we progress toward August 2021, NAPS will continue to monitor developments, work with the hotel and strategize under the new norm to take the necessary steps to ensure our national convention is not only successful, but also safe for attendees.
Q: Because of COVID-19, NAPS branches have been unable to meet. What are you hearing from the field regarding how the branches are conducting business?
A: Due to many state stay-at-home and stay-in-place orders and limits on public gatherings, branch activities have been minimal, if not altogether canceled until further notice. All 2020 NAPS state conventions were canceled and rescheduled for next year.
Q: Fortunately, some branches have in their chapter Constitution & Bylaws the ability to conduct meetings via teleconferences. This is a great option, including using Zoom for meetings. We already have seen branches using the Zoom option.
A: During the COVID-19 pandemic, until a branch can assure members that having in-person meetings with social distancing guidelines is safe, they should consider teleconference meetings. This would be a good time for branches to modify their constitutions to allow for teleconferencing as a meeting option.
Q: There always has been a lot of interaction among the resident officers and branches. When do you hope to start traveling again?
A: On average, I would estimate each resident officer travels about 40 weekends out of the year to various NAPS meetings and events. I miss seeing and engaging with the members. I will admit, though, without all the traveling, my apartment has never been cleaner. But, seriously, getting a strong handle on containing the spread and contracting of COVID-19 will be the deciding factor when branches resume meetings and events and resident officers are back traveling.
Our NAPS branches are very active, but they now must be very cautious when scheduling meetings and events to ensure they adhere to social distancing and large-group guidelines. It would be nice to start traveling to NAPS activities by December.
Q: What has your experience been working outside the office, separate from the rest of the staff? Are you able to accomplish more? What about those times you need to discuss issues with the resident officers and staff? Does current IT fulfill these needs?
A: I am not sure the work-from-home concept is for everyone. It may be a novel idea for the first week or two, but, for me, I am an office-type person who enjoys going into the office and having personal interaction with staff and others. Except for the two weeks at the end of March when I worked from home because NAPS Headquarters closed per CDC guidelines, I have been working at NAPS Headquarters since April 2.
Accomplishing more when working remotely is definitely a yes and no answer. Some days, I accomplished more because I could stay focused without many interruptions, but it takes discipline. The commute to my home office was pretty easy and I could dress casually.
There are, however, some resources you need back at the office that cannot be accessed remotely. Plus, working off a laptop rather than my two-monitor office desktop was challenging at times.
That said, with text, phone and email, the resident officers and staff were always in contact. Our IT company did an outstanding job getting all NAPS Headquarters staff aligned with laptops and remote access to our office computers, including call-forwarding in order to maintain continuity of NAPS business. But even before COVID-19, when traveling, I was able to work remotely and be in contact with the other resident officers, staff, board members and members.
We have learned, like millions of others across the country under this new norm, we can be productive and efficient when required to work remotely. Again, it is a personal preference to work remotely. But, under these circumstances, it is a necessary health and safety preference.
Q: In the midst of the increased challenges facing the Postal Service because of the pandemic, the 75th postmaster was appointed. How do you go about developing a working relationship with a PMG from outside the agency?
A: We reached out immediately to newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. On May 15, on behalf of the 27,000 active and retired NAPS members, I sent DeJoy a congratulatory letter on his unanimous selection to serve as the 75th postmaster general of the United States and chief executive officer of the U.S. Postal Service.
I look forward to building a positive business relationship with our new PMG and his postal leadership team through honest and direct regular dialogue. My goal also is to assure incoming PMG DeJoy that, as a First-Class (no pun intended) professional postal management association, NAPS is an asset and resource for the USPS when seeking smart business solutions to ensure the success of the USPS today, tomorrow and well into the future.
Q: NAPS always has been a strong voice for its members in dealing with the Postal Service. Do you see that role changing at all? Has it been enhanced?
A: I see NAPS’ voice not only getting stronger, but our role as a professional postal management association changing for the better. Our voice always must be one of resilience, integrity and honesty in our business relationships. Whether our voice is directed toward USPS Headquarters, Congress or the postal industry, what is important is our ability to change our pitch in terms of our business approach and style to seek satisfactory resolutions for NAPS and our members.
Our role was enhanced when our NAPS Executive Board voted unanimously to first seek fact-finding in 2018, then, in 2019, file a lawsuit against the USPS on EAS pay and representation.
This year, NAPS’ legislative grassroots efforts were instrumental in having H.R. 6085, the “Postal Supervisors and Managers Fairness Act,” introduced. These necessary actions were taken to ensure NAPS’ strong voice continues to be heard on behalf of our members.
Q: What is your outlook for your final year as NAPS president?
A: I have always considered myself the type of person who is motivated—a perfectionist, optimistic and a little anxious when I have too much coffee.
My outlook is one of motivation to see a fair and equitable outcome to our pending lawsuit against the USPS to include acknowledged representation of all EAS employees. I plan to be optimistic about achieving a future USPS pay system that will recognize and compensate EAS employees annually for their individual work performance.
I am anxious to getting back to actually visiting members at NAPS events throughout the country. Besides drinking too much coffee, I definitely want to eat many new flavors of ice cream during my final year.
Finally, as a perfectionist, my outlook has not changed from when I first was elected president in 2016. I will continue doing the business of NAPS and representing the best interest of our members at a level of 110%. However, I do plan to take more time enjoying the daily experience until my last official day as NAPS president.