Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, left, is escorted to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. DeJoy is a Greensboro businessman who is drawing fire for changes at the postal service that critics worry could delay delivery of absentee ballots this fall. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, left, is escorted to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. DeJoy is a Greensboro businessman who is drawing fire for changes at the postal service that critics worry could delay delivery of absentee ballots this fall. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

AP

Louis DeJoy has hosted presidents, built a nationwide business and donated millions to politicians and philanthropies.

But he’s never drawn the attention he has since becoming the nation’s postmaster general in June.

Critics say the Greensboro businessman already has launched policies that have slowed mail service. They worry that as a major donor to President Donald Trump, he’ll delay delivery of what’s expected to be a flood of absentee ballots that could decide the presidential election.

Democratic Rep. Alma Adams of Charlotte Saturday call on DeJoy to resign after removing nearly two dozen top postal executives on Friday.

”DeJoy continues his unconstitutional sabotage of our Postal Service with complete disregard for the institution’s promise of the ‘safe and speedy transit of the mail’ and the ‘prompt delivery of its contents’,” she said in a statement.

.Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a “heated discussion” with DeJoy Wednesday over their concerns about mail delivery, according to the Washington Post.

DeJoy, 63, could not be reached. But in a statement last week, he said the postal system is “financially unsustainable” stemming from “a broken business model.” He promised to fix it.

“As you will soon discover, I am direct and decisive and I don’t mince words,” he told postal employees in a video message in June. “And when I see problems I work to solve them.”

Those who know him have no doubts.

“He’s probably the most qualified person to be postmaster general since Benjamin Franklin,” said former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory. “He’s pure New York. To the point, direct, no BS. Strictly business.”

DeJoy, who wears a fringe of gray hair around a shiny scalp, can be imposing.

Though he’s lived in Greensboro for two decades, he still has the accent of his native Brooklyn. A hard-charger, he took over his father’s small trucking company and turned it into a nationwide logistics business that he sold for $615 million in 2014. Admirers say he’s smart, hard-working, tenacious and self-deprecating.

While he made his fortune in business, DeJoy made his mark in fundraising.

DeJoy and his wife, Aldona Wos, have hosted events for GOP presidents and presidential candidates since 2006. In 2017, Trump made his first trip to North Carolina as president for a fundraiser at their home. Since 2016, DeJoy has donated $1.2 million to the president and nearly $1.3 million to the Republican Party.

The couple is at the rarefied level of donors who are often rewarded with ambassadorships. Wos herself served as ambassador to Estonia under President George W. Bush. This year Trump nominated her as ambassador to Canada, an appointment still pending.

“They’re probably North Carolina’s ultimate power couple,” said Tom Fetzer, a former state GOP chair.

‘The fundraising game’

Just across from the second fairway at the Greensboro Country Club is a house some call “The Castle.”

Built for the family that founded Cone Mills, the 15,000-square-foot home includes a pool house and a swimming pool with rock formations created by a designer from the N.C. Zoo. DeJoy bought the house in 2005 for $5.9 million, one of the highest prices ever paid for a house in Greensboro. It’s the house where he cooks gourmet Italian dinners for friends and hosts events for presidents.

DeJoy and Wos first moved to the Triad in 1998, five years after he brought his company, New Breed Logistics, to the area.

It was Wos who first became a name in politics.

When Elizabeth Dole decided to run for the U.S. Senate in 2002, she asked her friend Bonnie McElveen-Hunter for help.

“Elizabeth asked me who could help her and I said, ‘I’ve got the perfect person’,” recalls McElveen-Hunter, a former ambassador to Finland.

Wos, a native of Poland whose parents survived slave labor camps and the Holocaust, had been a civic leader in Greensboro. A former physician, she led Dole’s outreach to women. In 2004, she co-chaired Bush’s North Carolina fundraising.

By then DeJoy had also become a top donor. In 2008, he co-chaired Rudy Giuliani’s state fundraising along with Jim Culbertson, a Winston-Salem executive and veteran GOP fundraiser.

“We raised more than (John) McCain and (Mitt) Romney put together,” Culbertson said. “(DeJoy) is very, very smart. He’s very outspoken. He works extremely hard. You knew where you stood with Louis. No doubt about it.”

Wos would serve as North Carolina’s secretary of health and human services under McCrory. DeJoy went on to become the GOP’s deputy national fundraising chair and fundraising chair for the GOP convention’s Charlotte host committee, posts he quit to become postmaster general.

“(DeJoy) understands the fundraising game as well as anybody I’ve worked with,” said Jonathan Brooks, a veteran N.C. fundraiser.

‘Master of the universe’

After beginning his career as a CPA in Florida, DeJoy returned north in 1983, when he was about 26, to take over the small Long Island trucking company started by his father. With just five trucks and 10 employees, it was close to bankruptcy.

DeJoy turned it around, and took it in a new direction.

New Breed Logistics specialized in efficiencies in moving goods from one place to another. DeJoy has said his first big break came in 1992 when he signed on the U.S. Postal Service as a customer. Others clients included companies like Boeing and Verizon.

“If you have a Verizon cell phone, I shipped it to you,” DeJoy once told an interviewer.

DeJoy moved New Breed from New York to High Point in 1993 and for a few years commuted to the state. By the time he sold it to Connecticut-based XPO Logistics in 2014, the company had nearly 7,000 employees. DeJoy stayed on as CEO of XPO’s supply-chain business for a year. Then he served on the company’s board until 2018.

McElveen-Hunter calls him “the master of the universe in regards to logistics.”

Like New Breed, XPO has been a major postal contractor. In 2017 it did business worth more than $57 million with the agency.

The Washington Post reported that DeJoy and his wife have between $30 million and $75 million in assets in postal service competitors or contractors, according to her financial disclosure report filed with the Office of Government Ethics.

Admirers aren’t surprised by his business success.

“He’s a very, very driven person and detailed beyond anybody that I’ve ever met,” said Ed Broyhill, a Winston-Salem businessman and Republican fundraiser.

Postal concerns

Mark Dimondstein worked as a clerk at the Greensboro post office for 33 years. Now he’s president of the 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union.

“We’re getting reports from all over the country of backed-up mail,” Dimondstein told the Observer. “(DeJoy’s) words say, ‘I’m here to help the post office.’ The deeds say something different that is undermining the institution.”

Since taking over, DeJoy has made significant changes. New rules have canceled overtime, barred carriers from waiting for delayed shipments and making them leave mail at distribution centers if picking it up would delay them from their routes. The changes came amid a manpower shortage caused by a pandemic which has left 40,000 workers quarantined at various times.

This concerns critics because it comes as Trump has escalated his attacks on mail-in voting.

“The last thing we need is for mailed ballots to be slowed down,” Dimondstein said.

But supporters say DeJoy could save the postal service.

“I don’t know anybody in this country who could do the job Louis is in right now better than Louis,” said Culbertson, the GOP fundraiser and former ambassador to The Netherlands.

In 2015, DeJoy told the Greensboro News & Record that he wouldn’t have lasted on Trump’s long-running reality show, “The Apprentice.”

“I’d be fired,” he said. “That attitude that you are the most important person is self-destructive.”

Jim Morrill, who grew up near Chicago, covers state and local politics. He’s worked at the Observer since 1981 and taught courses on North Carolina politics at UNC Charlotte and Davidson College.

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