Johnson to Head Steuart Petroleum; Area Firm Is Old Family Concern

Directors of Steuart Petroleum Co., an 85-year-old family business that is one of the largest privately owned companies in the Washington area, have named John C. Johnson, who joined the oil-distributing concern two years ago as chief financial officer, to the position of president.

In a statement last week, Leonard P. Steuart II, chairman and chief executive officer, announced that he will relinquish the post he has held for the past 15 years, to Johnson, whom he described as "uniquely well-equipped" to carry out the responsibilities of the day-to-day management of the company.

Both executives expected a smooth transition because Johnson essentially has held those responsibilities since December, when he was appointed chief operating officer. Steuart, which last year ran up sales of about $450 million, Johnson said, operates a retail home-heating-oil business, retail gas stations and commercial and industrial fuel-oil concerns.

Johnson also will become a member of the company's board of directors, which includes Leonard Steuart, 50; his brother Guy, 54, who is president of the company's parent firm, Steuart Investing Co.; and his father Curtis, chairman of the parent firm and, at 79, still the uncontested steward of the family business.

Asked whether the appointment signaled a change in the company's long history of family management, Steuart and Johnson noted that this is not the first time an outsider has filled a senior management position. Leonard Steuart's predecessor as president, Richard L. Counts, had held the post for many years before retiring in 1971.

However, Steuart acknowledged that, to date, the next generation of Steuarts, who are in their mid- to late-20s, have expressed little interest in joining the family-run business.

In an interview, Johnson, a native of New York City who had been president of an oil-distributing firm in the Southeast, ATC Petroleum Inc., said he was quickly accepted by the Steuart family upon joining the firm in 1984.

"Leonard and I work together very, very well," Johnson said. "We have a very close-knit management team, and I am included in all the decision making."

Johnson seemed excited about the prospects for the company under his direction. Declining world oil prices, he said, have been, and will continue to be, a boon for the firm for two reasons. First, lower prices require the company to borrow less from banks to finance inventories and, therefore, reduce interest costs. Second, he said, Steuart is slowly beginning to recoup much of the business lost to natural gas during the periods of rising oil prices. BANKING, FINANCIAL SERVICES

Meritor Financial Corp. in Philadelphia has appointed Carl A. Modecki, former president of the Consumer Bankers Association, to head Meritor Savings Bank, the Arlington thrift established in the fall by the acquisition of Capital City and Northern Virginia savings and loans. Modecki, who replaces retiring Leonard T. Ebert, will assume day-to-day management of the savings bank, which has branches in Northern Virginia and the District.

The Secura Group, the finance-industry consulting firm formed recently by former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman William M. Isaac, has recruited Christie A. Sciacca as senior vice president. As Isaac's assistant at the FDIC, Sciacca had responsibility for dealing with problem banks, bank failures and the liquidation of their assets.

At its annual stockholders' meeting recently, The Citizens National Bank in Laurel elected Thomas E. Lynch, president of Academy Ford Sales Inc., and Charles G. Fagan, a partner in the accounting firm of Pear, Fagan and Bormel, to its board of directors. Also at the meeting, Donald E. Shaffrey was promoted to senior vice president. And Kathleen R. Schoffstall, Ronald H. Giles and Forrest R. McGraw were promoted to vice presidents. COMMUNICATIONS

Mortimer B. Zuckerman, the New York real estate magnate, last week named Fred Drasner, currently president and chief executive officer of U.S. News & World Report, to assume the additional responsibility of vice chairman and chief executive officer of the Atlantic Monthly Co., which publishes The Atlantic magazine. Drasner takes over control of the business operations of The Atlantic from James K. Glassman, who has resigned. Glassman, who will be retained as a consultant, is working on various independent projects, including the writing of a book. Drasner said the merging of the two positions is meant to take advantage of "efficiencies of scale and joint opportunities available to us with a more coordinated management" of the business operations of the two publications. Drasner announced two new appointments to his staff: Robin Johnson, recently with People magazine as director of strategic planning and development, will become a vice president, overseeing strategic planning for U.S. News and business operations for The Atlantic. William Harris, previously vice president for consumer marketing, has been promoted to executive vice president of U.S. News, assisting Drasner in the overall planning and management of the division.

Communications Satellite Corp. announced that its Intelsat satellite and maritime services have been reorganized into a separate division, which, for an interim period, will report to Joel Alper, president of the company's space communications division. Bruce Crockett, vice president and chief financial officer, will assume additional daily responsibility for the Intelsat portion of the new division. Stephen Day, vice president of marketing and corporate development, will assume the new post of vice president and general manager of business networks for Comsat General. And Susan Mayer, formerly a consultant, will become vice president for corporate development.

The Oil Daily Inc. has named DeVan L. Shumway, editor and publisher of the trade journal, to the additional post of president of the company. John A. Moore, who joined the publication as managing editor in 1972, has become associate publisher. Katherine Holstrom, former director of product development, has been given the additional post of director of administration. And Shirley C. Mackey, previously circulation director at the Times Publishing Co. in St. Petersburg, Fla., has been named circulation director.

Vanguard Cellular Systems Inc. has appointed Ralph E. Hiskey to vice president in charge of corporate development for the Alexandria firm. He was previously a vice president for NewVector Communications Inc., the mobile telephone subsidiary of US West Inc.

Gannett Co. Inc., the Rosslyn communications company, has appointed Nancy J. Woodhull president of its electronic media and new product research and development operation, Gannett New Media Services. Formerly vice president of news for the two-year-old division, Woodhull will oversee all operations in her new job. She will remain a senior editor of USA Today.

Florence S. Lowe, chief public spokeswoman for the National Endowment for the Arts since 1970, has been recruited by The Kamber Group as a senior consultant in arts and cultural communications for the Washington marketing firm. RETAIL, WHOLESALE TRADE

Bert I. Helfinstein, recently appointed president and chief operating officer of Entre Computer Centers of America Inc. in Vienna, has named a new management team for the computer retailer, consisting of four "managing directors." Thomas A. Floerchinger, previously vice president of a major manufacturing company, Harman International Industries Inc., has become chief financial officer and managing director of finance and administration. George G. Mellios, who designed and operates Entre's 120,000-square-foot Chantilly distribution center, has been appointed managing director of product logistics. Margaret A. Rodenberg, former director of product management, has been named head of marketing and advertising. And Michael D. Skelton, founder and former vice president of a California computer-peripherals maker, Talus Corp., has become managing director of field operations, including franchise relations. INDUSTRIAL, MANUFACTURING

Atlantic Research Corp. in Alexandria has named W. Gerald Hamm chief operating officer, giving him additional responsibility for administration of the rocket maker and diversified services firm. Hamm, a 25-year veteran who rose through the ranks in ARC's propulsion division, will continue to oversee operations of that division and some of the company's newer lines, including the electronics and communications division and Systematics General Corp., which it acquired last year. PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

BDM International Inc. last week announced the retirement of Bernard J. Dunn, one of its three founders, as vice president and chairman of the executive committee of the McLean diversified professional and technical services firm. Dunn is one of three physicists -- Joseph V. Braddock, Dunn and Daniel F. McDonald -- who founded the company 26 years ago in El Paso, Tex., as Braddock, Dunn and McDonald Inc. Since then, the company has expanded into a firm with 3,700 employes and $250 million in annual sales, primarily to the government. Dunn, who will remain a director of the company, is the first of the founders to retire.

Decision/Making/Information, the polling research firm founded by Richard Wirthlin, polster for President Reagan and the Republican National Committee, has named Thomas B. Hughes president and chief operating officer. Hughes, who was president of the marketing division, which accounts for 50 percent of the firm's $8 million in annual revenue, replaces Vincent J. Breglio, who has returned as president to a firm he founded in 1982, Research/Strategy/Management. Hughes announced the following appointments: Harry Seymour, as senior vice president for client services; Neil Newhouse, as vice preesident for client services; Veronique Swett, as vice president and account executive, and Merle Brown, as vice president for operations. GOVERNMENT

The Commerce Department named Desiree D. Tucker, formerly press secretary for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, as the chief public spokeswoman and public communications staff director of the department's International Trade Administration.

The Washington Convention Center's deputy general manager, Michael C. Rogers, has resigned to become executive director of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center of New York. No replacement for Rogers was named.

The David W. Taylor Naval Ship Research & Development Center, the Navy's principal research and development for naval vessels, has announced the retirement of Alan Powell as technical director. Powell, who oversaw many of the center's hull design improvements and innovations in his 19 years in the position, will be replaced by Richard E. Metrey, currently deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for surface warfare.