When H. Donald DeMatteis took the job as superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Banking in 1979, he anticipated serving for a couple of years before-as they say in Maine-"getting done."
"Who'd work for the government for more than two years?" asked Mr. DeMatteis, with a laugh, during a recent interview.
Twenty years later, Mr. DeMatteis ranks among the longest serving bank superintendents in the nation and is the longest reigning in Maine history.
Mr. DeMatteis, 55, plans to step down in June. And he will do so with a reputation as a pioneer in interstate banking, said Ellen Lamb, a spokeswoman for the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.
"The banking landscape in the state of Maine has changed immensely in the 20 years he's been there," said Ms. Lamb. "It's been cutting-edge."
Among his most noteworthy accomplishments was creation of a universal charter that incorporates the best features of the state's various bank charters.
The new charter was established by state lawmakers in 1997. That achievement was followed by legislative changes that led to the creation last year of the nation's first uninsured wholesale bank, or woofie, in Portland, Maine.
Woofies do not accept deposits and are not regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.; they cater only to financially sophisticated, high-net-worth customers.
"In the last couple of years, as he prepared to step down, he's actually been very innovative in terms of charter development," said Thomas J. Curry, Massachusetts commissioner of banking and vice chairman of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.
Mr. DeMatteis has won praise from bankers for using "common sense" in regulating bank activities. For instance, he dropped a rule requiring banks to get approval from the banking comissioner before closing a branch that had a flooded basement or other such problem, he said.
The regulatory climate 20 years ago "was very burdensome," agreed Peter J. Verrill, chief financial officer of Peoples Heritage Financial Group in Portland. He recalled that regulators had insisted that loan amounts and types fall within certain percentages of a bank's overall balance sheet.
"All that has gone away and basically come down to common sense," Mr. Verrill said.
Mr. Verrill said he has been most impressed with Mr. DeMatteis' fairness. Unlike some "overbearing and obnoxious" regulators he has come across, Mr. DeMatteis was always willing to listen yet be firm when necessary, Mr. Verrill said.
Mr. DeMatteis had plenty of opportunities to be firm in the early 1990s- a period when several Maine banks ran into trouble and a few failed.
Mr. DeMatteis said he had always made it a point to avoid partisanship. He managed to steer clear of political squabbles while championing causes such as interstate banking and the universal charter.
"It wasn't my intent to be political-I wasn't going to take sides in the Legislature," he said.
That approach has worked. Mr. DeMatteis has served under three governors-a Democrat, a Republican, and an Independent.
After earning undergraduate and master's degrees from Farleigh Dickinson University in Madison, N.J., Mr. DeMatteis-a native of New Jersey-joined Beneficial Management Corp. in Morristown, N.J., as a research analyst.
He moved in 1970 to Connecticut Bank and Trust Co. in Hartford to be manager of research and planning. Here, at the largest retail bank in New England, he rubbed elbows with the likes of James Orr, now chief executive officer of UNUM Corp., the world's largest disability insurer.
In 1975 Mr. DeMatteis became director of marketing for Canal Bank in Portland, Maine. Within a year he was promoted to senior vice president in charge of the 175-employee retail banking division.
But, at 35, he wasn't satisfied. While thinking about how he might ascend to a bank CEO post, he saw the advertisement in a Portland newspaper for the superintendent's job.
Now, Mr. DeMatteis says he's looking forward to pursuits such as running his small antiques business. He wants to restore and sell more clocks and Winchester rifles and write magazine articles on those topics.
"I feel like it's been life in the fast lane," he said.
Mr. DeMatteis said he would enjoy serving on the board of a bank. However, he added, with grandchildren and the lure of southern states in wintertime, "I don't think I'd want a full-time job anywhere."