COMPTEL Searches for New CEO

Earl Comstock resigned as president and CEO of COMPTEL on May 30.

COMPTEL is shopping for a new president and CEO following the late May resignation of Earl Comstock, who served in the role for two years.

COMPTEL named Jerry James, former president of Grande Communications Networks Inc. and a past COMPTEL chairman, as its interim CEO.

COMPTEL decided at its June 12 board meeting it likely will hire a search firm to find Comstocks successor. At press time, COMPTEL Chairman Sherm Henderson, president and CEO of Lightyear, told PHONE+ the board had not yet nailed down criteria for a replacement.

Interim CEO James potentially could serve as COMPTELs permanent CEO if he were to put his hat in the ring. If he chooses to submit his name, that is totally up to him. Weve had no discussion about that, says Henderson.

Henderson says the board chose James because he has worked in telecom and has been involved with COMPTEL since the 1980s. Hes just got a whale of knowledge, Henderson says.

James told PHONE+ he just wants to help the association move forward. My focus will be to continue the passion and commitment for the advocacy for the industry and for competition in general, James says.

Henderson would not elaborate of the reasons for Comstocks resignation or whether he was asked to resign. The news caught some industry observers off guard while others took the news in stride.

I think this has been in the works for almost a year now, says one long-time telecom insider who requested anonymity. Earl is the third or fourth COMPTEL executive director who is an inside the Beltway guy. That emphasis on policy and legal matters was at odds with member companies desire for leadership on business strategy, adds the insider.

Comstock joined COMPTEL in summer 2005. Prior to that, he was a partner at Sher & Blackwell LLP, a Washington, D.C. law firm representing ISPs, applications providers, wireless carriers and CLECs. He also spent 10 years working for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

He succeeded H. Russell Frisby Jr., who served the association for seven years before returning to practice law, and James Smith, who left the association in late 90s, and has worked as an attorney for telecom companies and now is in private practice.

Earl was a creature of regulatory policy, says the insider. They just need someone who can go beyond that and it just wasnt his thing.

Henderson says board members also will meet to discuss the organizations emphasis on policy versus strategy, but he says those two matters have nothing to do with Earl resigning.

Henderson also refutes rumors that smaller company members that joined the group by acquisition were unhappy with Comstocks leadership. Not true, he says. Not true.

COMPTEL has acquired several associations of smaller competitors over the years. These include Americas Carriers Telecommunications Association, a group of smaller IXCs, in spring 1999; ASCENT, an association made up primarily of local and long-distance resellers, in fall 2003; and the Association for Local Telecommunications Services (ALTS), a CLEC organization, in late 2005.

Grande Communications Networks Inc.

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