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BGE head to retire after decade at utility's helm

Kenneth W. DeFontes Jr. will retire as Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s president and CEO at the end of the month, after nearly a decade at the helm of Maryland's largest gas and electric utility.

His retirement, announced Wednesday, will be effective Feb. 28, BGE said. A pair of BGE officials will assume his roles.

Calvin G. Butler Jr., BGE's senior vice president of regulatory and external affairs, will become the company's CEO. Stephen J. Woerner, BGE's senior vice president and chief operating officer, will become BGE's president while remaining in the COO position as well.

DeFontes, 62, of Kingsville, said he has been thinking of retiring for a couple of years, is in good health and intends to travel with his wife, Donna. He also hopes to spend more time as a flight instructor, a favorite hobby.

He said he leaves the company in good hands.

"I've had the distinct pleasure of working with some of the best professionals in the business, and I'm confident that we have the right leadership team in place to ensure BGE's success," he said in a statement. "I'm excited for the future of BGE and what comes next for me personally."

DeFontes took over at BGE in 2004, after the retirement of Frank O. Heinz, who had headed the utility since 2000. DeFontes began at BGE in 1972.

During his tenure as CEO, when deregulation, rate freezes and the nation's financial collapse tested the company, DeFontes said his role was "to be a steady hand at the tiller as we had to rise through some pretty rough waters."

As 2012 neared, his 40th year at the company, he contemplated retiring, he said. Instead, he decided to stay on as the company's former parent company, Constellation Energy Group, finalized a merger with Chicago-based Exelon Corp.

The $7.9 billion deal created the largest nonutility energy provider in the country.

DeFontes said he didn't want to depart in the midst of the merger, but now feels enough time has passed.

"Now it's been two years since that time, I feel like the merger's moved along very well, the transition's complete. I feel like the company's in a great place right now," he said.

"Ken led BGE through some times of great change for the energy industry, and his contributions have been extremely important to the company's success," Denis O'Brien, CEO of Exelon Utilities, said in a statement. "Ken is tremendously respected throughout the company, the utility industry and in Maryland. He has served as a mentor to many and is known for his passion, integrity and service."

DeFontes, a Baltimore native, said he doesn't intend to find another day job but will continue to be involved in the community. He serves as chair of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's board of trustees and is a member of the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering's advisory council.

krector@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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