Three CEOs step down at local firms

BGE: President Frank O. Heintz, 60 will retire Oct. 1 after heading the 3,100-employee utility since 2000

September 02, 2004|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Frank O. Heintz, president of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., will retire Oct. 1, BGE's parent company Constellation Energy Group said yesterday.

Heintz, a former state delegate and former Maryland Public Service Commission chairman who joined BGE in 1996 as a vice president, will be succeeded by Kenneth W. DeFontes Jr., a 32-year BGE veteran and current vice president of electric transmission and distribution.

Heintz, 60, said yesterday that he is retiring to devote more time to his family, his church and the "spiritual" aspects of his life.

He has headed BGE since 2000, leading the 3,100-employee organization through the complications of Maryland's deregulation of its electric market and the weeklong challenge of restoring electricity to more than 1 million customers last fall after Tropical Storm Isabel, the region's most damaging storm ever.

BGE supplies electricity to 1.2 million electric customers and gas to another 600,000 in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

"He is someone who has dedicated the vast majority of his life to public service, and in some respects, coming to the private sector was somewhat of an aberration, but he was exceptional at it," said Mayo A. Shattuck III, Constellation's chairman, president and chief executive.

Del. Dereck E. Davis, a Prince George's County Democrat who is chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, which oversees utility issues, said yesterday that BGE had served the citizens of the state well under Heintz's direction.

"Their focus on reliability and service to its rate payers was second to none," Davis said.

Technology advances

Heintz said he was most proud of the utility's advances in using technology during his tenure. For instance, repair crews were equipped with laptop computers in their trucks to dispatch information more efficiently.

DeFontes said he plans to continue the course set by Heintz.

"The term filling big shoes takes on new meaning when you follow someone like Frank Heintz," DeFontes said.

"Our investment in system reliability is going to be something we're going to continue to do," DeFontes added. "Staying on top of customer satisfaction is very critical."

The utility had planned for DeFontes to succeed Heintz, Shattuck said yesterday.

"Kenneth is a natural successor here," Shattuck said. "He's been exposed to all parts of the business. He's a proven leader and has tremendous energy and dedication. Running the electric system and his performance during Isabel ... all put him in a very strong position to take the reins here."

BGE and other state utilities faced widespread public criticism for the several days it took to restore power to some customers after Isabel.

Isabel criticism

The utilities defended their performance, saying that planning, improved technology and the assistance of hundreds of out-of-state crews helped them repair the damage relatively quickly under extraordinary circumstances.

Patricia A. Smith, the Maryland People's Counsel, said an analysis by her staff showed that BGE had made strides in communicating with customers between Tropical Storm Floyd, which caused widespread outages in 1999, and Isabel.

But in a report issued in June of this year. the Public Service Commission said that utilities still need to improve their communication with local emergency management agencies, customers and the media.

"Mr. Heintz really made an effort to be sensitive to those issues I've been attempting to raise," including everything from billing practices to increases in natural gas and oil prices and the expected jumps in electric rates when rate caps are lifted for residents in BGE's area in 2006, said Smith. "Mr. Heintz had a broad view from his work at the PSC and his public service career."

At BGE, Heintz led the gas division in 1997 and in 1998 became executive vice president of utility operations.

He was elected president and chief executive officer in July 2000.

Earlier, Heintz served for 13 years as chairman of the state Public Service Commission. From 1970 to 1974, he was a delegate in the General Assembly, and then served on the Baltimore City Council for about a year. A former elementary school teacher in the Baltimore school system, he was in the Peace Corps in India.

Successor

DeFontes, who joined BGE in 1972 as an engineer, was responsible for overseeing the utility's response to Isabel last September.

He earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from Swarthmore College and a master's degree in business administration from Loyola College.

He serves on the St. Joseph Medical Center Operating Board of Trustees and the Johns Hopkins School of Professional Studies in Business & Education Advisory Council.

DeFontes will be succeeded as vice president of electric transmission and distribution by Mark Huston, a vice president of corporate strategy and development for Constellation Energy.

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