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A 22-year post office veteran named to run the mail's day-to-day operations says the agency must restore its credibility after a string of delivery problems.

William J. Henderson says it's critical for the Postal Service to "restore confidence, both internally and externally. We won't be around forever unless we earn our franchise."Postmaster General Marvin Runyon picked Henderson on Tuesday to become executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Postal Service.

Runyon announced several other management changes, including consolidation of 20 regional managers into 10 to better focus decision-making and responsibility.

The moves drew prompt reaction from the chief congressional critic of the post office, which has been buffeted by major delivery problems in Chicago, rising deficits and service trouble in New York and Washington.

"You can reshuffle the cards, but in the end it's how you play the hand," said Rep. William Clay, D-Mo., chairman of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee.

The latest plan will be judged on meeting on-time delivery, reducing the deficit, improving productivity, raising employee morale and controlling costs, said Clay.

The 46-year-old Henderson, who is now the post office's head of marketing, will replace Joseph R. Caraveo, 62, who is retiring after two years as chief operating officer.

Runyon said he is reducing the current system of 20 regional managers to 10 by combining operations. Currently, each region has a sales and service manager and a processing and distribution manager.

By putting one person in charge of each region, decisions will be centralized, Runyon said.

"We need people who accept change because change is going to happen," Runyon said of efforts to improve postal performance and modernize operation of the massive bureaucracy.

"I want people who are facilitators, not dictators," he stressed.

When he took office two years ago, Runyon dropped several layers of management and eliminated 23,000 Postal Service jobs.

Runyon termed that program a success but said the agency has lost momentum in recent months.

The post office has come under heavy criticism following a decline in performance during the winter and reports of delivery problems in Chicago and other cities. A 27-person task force was sent to Chicago to straighten out that city's delivery mess.