Heintz says he's leaving post as Maryland's chief regulator

April 18, 1995|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun Staff Writer Frank Langfitt of The Sun's Annapolis Bureau contributed to this article.

Frank O. Heintz, the studious former Peace Corps volunteer )) who has served as Maryland's chief utility regulator for 13 years, resigned yesterday to take a job with a trade association.

Mr. Heintz, who was chairman of the Public Service Commission as Maryland became one of the earliest states to open its market to telephone industry competition, told Gov. Parris N. Glendening in a letter yesterday that "the time has come to begin a new stage in my professional career."

The 51-year-old Baltimore lawyer will become executive director of the Caucus of Local Distribution Companies, an arm of the American Gas Association in Washington.

Dianna Rosborough, Mr. Glendening's press secretary, said yesterday that there is no leading candidate for the position, a powerful one because of the PSC's oversight of telephone and power rates.

"We are hopeful we will have someone very quickly, certainly within the month," she said.

With the appointment of Mr. Heintz's successor, the governor has an opportunity to substantially reshape state policy on regulatory issues in industries ranging from telecommunications to gas and electric power to transportation.

Besides the chairmanship, one other position on the five-member commission will be open after Commissioner E. Mason Hendrickson's term expires June 30. Ms. Rosborough said yesterday that the governor has not yet decided whether to reappoint Mr. Hendrickson.

Mr. Heintz, a former member of the House of Delegates and Baltimore City Council, was named chairman of the PSC by Gov. Harry R. Hughes in 1982 and was twice reappointed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer. His current term in the $84,500-a-year post would have expired in 1998.

As chairman, Mr. Heintz was known by both admirers and critics as a hard worker and a patient consensus-builder who steered a careful course between consumer and business interests. He said yesterday that he took pride in the fact that split decisions were rare during his tenure.

John Glynn, who served eight years as Maryland people's counsel while Mr. Heintz was chairman, said that was the cause of arguments between the two men.

"Frank liked consensus, and I always felt any time you can get five political appointees to agree about anything, it's probably a bad idea," said the former consumer advocate, now a state district judge.

Mr. Glynn, who described his relationship with Mr. Heintz as "love, hate and then litigate," said he believed Mr. Heintz was too concerned about the effect of PSC decisions on the industries the commission regulates. But he also described Mr. Heintz as a very able chairman and a "very clean sort of character."

"When I screamed loud enough, he would listen, and there were some public service commissioners who wouldn't listen no matter how loud you screamed," Mr. Glynn said.

In a state that has seen its share of crooked public officials, Mr. Heintz stood out as a straight arrow. "He would go to sometimes extremes to see that there was no perception of impropriety," said William A. Badger, a longtime PSC commissioner who served alongside Mr. Heintz for almost a decade.

At industry conferences where he was invited to speak, he conspicuously avoided company-sponsored parties and would often be seen dining alone while other officials hobnobbed with industry executives. He also was known for his refusal to use his auto air conditioning when driving on state business.

"A person can get along in life and not be an energy hog," said Mr. Heintz, a nationally recognized expert on natural gas regulation.

In his announcement to the PSC staff yesterday, Mr. Heintz emphasized that his new job will be limited to representing the natural gas industry before Congress and federal agencies. "The job will not involve advocacy or representation before the Maryland commission or other state utility commissions," he said.

As news of Mr. Heintz's resignation spread, associates and industry executives offered accolades.

Mr. Hughes said Mr. Heintz had done an "absolutely excellent" job as chairman. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. Chairman Christian H. Poindexter called his resignation a "great loss for the zTC state." John Dillon, vice president for external affairs of Bell Atlantic-Maryland, said that "under his leadership, the Maryland commission has often been a model for the country in terms of local telecommunications policy."

In fact, when the PSC voted a year ago to grant MFS Intelenet Inc. "co-carrier" status with Bell Atlantic, Maryland became one of only a handful of states to put a challenger on an equal legal footing with a telephone monopoly.

Mr Heintz alluded to that yesterday when asked what was his most important accomplishment.

"I'm proud of the fact that our commission, as industries have changed, has been willing to move away from regulation and spur competition where competition will work to serve consumers," he said.

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