|Michael L. Jones photo
From left, Our Authors Study Club President Dr. Genevieve Shepherd, Artist Artis Lane, Los Angeles Postmaster James A. Smith and Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker unveil the Charles W. Chesnutt Commemorative Stamp, the 31st stamp in the Postal Service’s Black Heritage Series. The four unveiled the stamp during LA’s Opening Ceremony for African-American History Month held on the City Hall lawn Friday, January 25. The stamp will be the last unveiled by Postmaster Smith who retires Feb. 1, the day on which the stamps become available nationwide.
James A. Smith leaves post with an unveiling of Black heritage stamp
When the time came to unveil the 31st stamp in the Postal Service’s Black Heritage Series, it was quite an emotional moment for Los Angeles Postmaster James A. Smith.
He was joined by Our Authors Study Club President Dr. Genevieve Shepherd, artist Artis Lane and Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker to unveil the Charles W. Chesnutt Commemora-tive Stamp during Los Angeles’ opening ceremony for African-American History Month held on the City Hall lawn Friday, January 25.
“This will be my last stamp unveiling as your postmaster,” said a teary-eyed Smith, who will be retiring on Feb. 1. “It’s been great, and I want you guys to know that I’ve appreciated your support and that I shall keep you right here,” placing his hand over his heart.
Smith was appointed the 39th postmaster of Los Angeles on August 11, 2001. In this position he was responsible for the management of 125 classified stations and branches in Los Angeles and South Bay. He was also responsible for supervising, through subordinate managers, of 4,000 employees who handle 900,000 daily deliveries to four million residents and 100,000 businesses.
“What I will miss most is the relationship with the people,” said Smith during a one-on-one interview with the Los Angeles Sentinel. “They have been my family and friends for all my life. They got me to where I am now, and I’m going to miss them.”
Smith began his postal career as a temporary letter carrier at the Oakwood (now Nat King Cole) Post Office in Los Angeles in 1965, and even then he realized the significance of building relationships with people.
He recalled, “Once I got the carrier job and I got the chance to be out in the community, I knew that was it. I loved it so much that when there were issues on my route, I didn’t want my customers to call the station manager. I told them to let me resolve any issues because I didn’t want anybody else dealing with my customers but me. I just loved them.”
Forty-three years and 17 management positions later, he still says the same. “I’ve always strived to keep close to my heart the postal issues and concerns most important to our customers and employees. Listening and responding to these concerns always gave me the opportunity to improve service.
“I am very humble and very grateful for the opportunities that the postal service has given me. Everything I have in life is a result of my opportunities with the postal service. I will continue to be very supportive of the postal service, and I will always carry the postal service banner.”
Although he is leaving the postal service, Smith will not be going into full retirement. On Feb. 4, he is opening Executive Communication Services—a consulting firm that works with political groups, churches, religious organizations, non-profits and anyone else that needs assistance in meeting their mailing needs. He will also be offering management consultation.
“I’ve been working as a manager for 25 years, so I think I have a little something to offer to the other sector,” he joked. “I’ve always had this yearning to have my own business and also to be in the private sector. I just want to see what I can do out there. I’m excited about it. It’ll be a new experience.”
Executive Communication Services is located at 5777 W. Century Blvd. Suite 910, Los Angeles, CA 90045.