HAPPY RETIREMENT, JIM!
By Jesse Robitaille
After nearly two decades at the helm of the country’s national stamp program, Jim Phillips fondly looks back at his tenure as Canada Post’s director of stamp services.
Before clocking out on Nov. 12, his last day on the job, Phillips served in the stamp program’s top position since 2002, although his work with Canada Post spanned his entire career. The multi-faceted director role, in which Phillips oversaw the design, production, inventory, budget and all other aspects of the stamp program, provided him with a sense of pride and accomplishment that would be difficult to match with other jobs.
“Being able to lead this iconic program for Canada for so long has been a real honour,” Phillips told CSN, a little more than a week after his retirement. “To use my history degree every day right up to the end of my career is something special, but I was always proud to represent Canada and Canada Post on the world stage – because when we’re out there, we’re not just representing Canada Post.”
Phillips’ career began in 1987 after he graduated with a Canadian history degree from Ottawa’s Carleton University. That summer, he joined Canada Post and began a years-long research project uncovering the postal service’s long history dating back to the mid-18th century, when the first regular mail services began springing up in present-day Canada.
A few years later, Phillips moved to the communications department, working on media relations and serving as the stamp program’s spokesperson.
Armed with more philatelic experience, he joined the stamp services team (then known as the “stamps and philately group”) around the turn of the century, working in marketing and product development.
Finally, in 2002, Phillips began his 19-year stint as director, replacing Micheline Montreuil, who served in that role (then known as the director of stamp products) since 1996.
Under his tenure, Phillips maintained a close connection to “Organized Philately,” including the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC), British North America Philatelic Society and countless local stamp clubs, which were often treated to presentations by him or other stamp services staff.
“His job has never been an easy one,” said RPSC past president and historian Charles Verge, a signatory of the iconic Roll of Distinguished Philatelists. “There are so many competing factors and people – internal and external – in the workings of stamp services. He had to have a thick skin and great interpersonal and diplomatic skills to perform as well as he has. Over all this time, he was receptive to the concerns of philatelists and philatelic groups without jeopardizing the different positions of Canada Post.”
Verge worked with Phillips since his early days at Canada Post – before he became the director – and they met many times to work on projects related to the RPSC, Orapex, international shows and other philatelic matters. Verge also joined the Stamp Advisory Committee in 2000, two years before Phillips took on the director role and became the lead Canada Post official on the arms-length committee tasked with choosing Canada’s stamp subjects.
“We worked closely together with Canada 92, CAPEX 96 and even more closely on the ‘Canadian National Collection: Reflections of Canada’ in 2000-02,” said Verge, referencing the exhibition opened in Ottawa on Canada Day in 2002 by then-prime minister Jean Chrétien.