Md. phone giant gets new chief Daniel J. Whelan is leaving to lead Bell Atlantic's Pa. unit

He was here since 1995

Sherry F. Bellamy is successor

1st black woman to hold post

February 28, 1997|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,SUN STAFF

The head of Bell Atlantic-Maryland is leaving to take a similar job with the phone giant's Pennsylvania arm, and he will be succeeded by a Bell Atlantic lawyer who becomes the first black woman in the company's history to hold such a senior post.

Sherry F. Bellamy, 44, now general counsel of Bell Atlantic's Washington unit, will replace Daniel J. Whelan as president and chief executive of Bell Atlantic-Maryland. Whelan will become president of Bell Atlantic-Pennsylvania, where he served as vice president of government and regulatory relations before being tapped to move to Baltimore in 1995. The change takes effect tomorrow.

"There's been a number of changes as a result of the merger [between Bell Atlantic and Nynex Corp.] and some unexpected retirements," said Whelan, 51, who will succeed the retiring Bill Harral, 58. Whelan said he had known about the new appointment, which will move him to company headquarters in Philadelphia, for several weeks.

The presidency of a Bell Atlantic state organization is a different, smaller job than it was in the days when J. Henry Butta ruled the roost at what was then called the C&P Telephone Co. of Maryland.

After a company reorganization, responsibility for most of Bell Atlantic's core operations moved from the state organizations and was consolidated at the corporate level, leaving state presidents in charge of government relations and some day-to-day operations but with a more consultative role in strategy decisions made by more senior corporate executives. Whelan likened the role in 1995 to getting results by "cajol[ing] people, not direct[ing] people."

"There's a great deal of responsibility that is shared," Bellamy said yesterday.

But Whelan was highly successful at his core job of dealing with Maryland legislators and regulators, often to the chagrin of rivals at long-distance carriers who plan to enter the local phone service market and in the state Office of the People's Counsel, which represents residential rate payers in cases before the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities.

During Whelan's tenure, Bell Atlantic-Maryland convinced the PSC to abandon regulating Bell Atlantic's profits. Instead, like about 40 states, Maryland simply capped prices, giving Bell Atlantic more incentive to modernize phone systems by keeping the savings from productivity gains and more flexibility to deal with new competition.

But unlike some states where the switch to new forms of regulation was accompanied by a major cut in phone rates, Maryland ordered Bell Atlantic to cut only $32 million from charges it assesses to long-distance carriers in exchange for carrying intra-state long-distance calls over Bell Atlantic lines during part of their journey. Bell Atlantic has long been prohibited from carrying long-distance calls within Maryland because of its monopoly over local phone service.

"Dan Whelan was, for better or worse, presiding at the beginning of the change," Assistant People's Counsel John Sayles said.

Whelan also gained prominence as a leader of the organized business community's push for a cut in Maryland state taxes. Even though Maryland's overall tax burden is near the average among states, Whelan and others argued that the state's heavy reliance on the personal income tax, compared to taxes on sales, corporate income and other tax bases, discourages business relocation in the state.

William M. Freeman, president of Bell Atlantic-Washington, D.C., and Bellamy's current boss, said Whelan's replacement was likely to keep up Whelan's political activism.

"People should expect to see her as a person who has a lot of energy, who is very personable, who understands the importance of being a banner-waver for the company in the community," Freeman said. "I think she will be a major player in that."

Political activism will be a return to form of sorts for Bellamy. As a Yale Law School student, she spent a semester in a joint program of law and children's studies designed to train lawyers to advocate for children.

That program had been founded about four years earlier at the instigation of a student named Hillary Rodham, now first lady of the United States.

"Of course, I didn't know who she was at the time," Bellamy said.

After four years working for a legal aid program, she went into private practice, working at two big law firms before joining Bell Atlantic in 1991. At both Yale and Swarthmore, where she got her bachelor's degree, Bellamy met a Baltimore student two years older than her named H. Russell Frisby Jr. -- now chairman of Maryland's PSC.

"It's a very small place," she said.

Pub Date: 2/28/97

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