Friday, May 21, 2010

Sam Behrend Out At Access Tucson

Posted By on Fri, May 21, 2010 at 8:51 AM

As the city continues to cut Access Tucson's funding, the Board of Directors has voted to let Executive Director Sam Behrend go. Behrend helped launch the non-profit public-access television station in 1984 and had been executive director since 1987.

Lisa Horner, training director with the station, will take the reins as executive director.

Here's the release from Access Tucson:

This evening the Access Tucson Board of Directors approved an agreement with Executive Director Sam Behrend to leave the organization effective May 22nd. Replacing him on an interim basis will be Training Director Lisa Horner. The Board praised Mr. Behrend's leadership and his more than 26 year commitment to Access Tucson and regrets the fiscal hardships caused by a series of funding cuts from the City of Tucson that forced them to release Mr. Behrend from his contract which was to have been through December, 2011.

J. Lisa Jones, Board Chair said: "these are excruciatingly difficult times and it is heartbreaking personally and devastating for Access Tucson to have Sam Behrend join many of his former co-workers who have also recently been let go due to significant loss of funding. We will miss Sam and wish him the very best"

Mr. Behrend along with Jan Lesher, La Monte Ward and Jerry Anderson were the start-up team when Access Tucson (then, Tucson Community Cable Corp.) opened in April, 1984. Behrend was Director of Operations until being named Executive Director, succeeding Lesher, in November, 1987 and has served in that position since. Mr. Behrend has been a recognized leader in the community media field for 30 years. He has served on cable television and telecommunications advisory boards in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Tucson. He has been a consultant with The Buske Group providing assistance to Cities and PEG groups nationally. Mr. Behrend has been a faculty member of the University of Pittsburgh, as well as the University of Arizona and Pima Community College. He has served in a variety of leadership positions with the Alliance for Community Media which honored him with the George Stoney Award (now The Dirk Koning-George Stoney Humanistic Communication Award),and with the Alliance for Communications Democracy of which he is treasurer. Under Behrend's leadership Access Tucson has also been honored locally, regionally and nationally, year after year with awards and accolades too numerous to mention.

Mr. Behrend's Statement

LaMonte Ward, Sam Behrend and Jim Thomas at
Access Tucson's 25th anniversary celebration last year.

"It has been an incredible honor for me to spend over 26 years at Access Tucson. I have been fortunate to work with the finest staff I can imagine. La Monte Ward and I were partners in managing Access Tucson and he is as good a business partner as anyone has ever had. He was always fair and even-handed with the staff and the public. He was my sounding board and we were a great team all these years. I miss La Monte each and every day. Carol Romano continues to be the heart and soul, brains and conscience of the staff but more importantly, her sound footing as CFO and solid judgment of what is right made her invaluable to me in my job. I simply don't know how I will be able to get through the day without Carol. I have worked with Jim Thomas since we were both volunteers at a cable access studio in Pittsburgh in 1973. He has been my friend, advisor and confidant all these years and so often provided me advice I needed to make a difficult decision. Jim always knew the right thing to do in every situation.

Lisa Horner is a tireless worker and leader and has wonderful vision for the future of what this organization can and will become. Under her leadership, Access Tucson will thrive albeit in new and exciting directions. Vikki Dempsey is a gifted artist and programmer and will continue to embrace new technologies and methods to distribute the community's free speech and voice. Rob Shoults and Eric Peery serve our membership energetically, with great skill and with the sensitivity needed to work with a diverse public. They as well as Dawn Petry form the front line of Access Tucson and all who come in contact with them are lucky. Dawn is an amazing artist with a devilish sense of humor which gives her balance as she works with thousands of people each year to make sure they are served properly in their transactions with Access Tucson. Larry Foster and Tim O'Grady are talented producers and exceptional instructors and have given Access Tucson its well-deserved reputation of having the finest production classes anywhere.

In addition to these folks I want to also mention some staff members who were laid off recently and who are severely missed by everyone - Kevin Sloan, Jeff Edson, Ivy Roberts and Daniela Ontiveros. And Vicki Evans who left last year was brilliant as our outreach and volunteer manager. She was the key to our outstanding relationships with hundreds of local community groups and organizations. I have been most fortunate to have also worked with an amazing roster of former employees who have all gone on to shine in their careers after working at Access Tucson. Besides pioneers Jan Lesher and Jerry Anderson, this includes Mark Taylor, Joseph Beadreaux, Roy Knappenberger, Shelli Hall, Karla Ronquillo, Maricela Martinez-Whitmore, Michael Mulcahy, Leslie Carlson, Kate Hiller, Robert Ashley, Delma Sanchez, Miguel Ortega, Zack Williams and so many more.

I have had committed Boards and passionate Board chairs. My work with Ben Jacobs and Jerry Freund goes back to the early days of the cable license. We have traveled a long way together. They as well as my very good friends Jerry Harwood and Sandee Brooke have been stalwarts. The rest of the current Board has been very supportive and worked hard during this especially challenging time. Cynthia Dickstein has led the way establishing the People for Access Tucson Foundation and its fundraising efforts which are needed more now than ever. Liz Burden along with former Board member Vicky Stromee conducted an important planning process which will continue to bear fruit in years to come.

J. Lisa Jones has been my partner on the board as chair for many years and has literally thrown herself into the role with passion, good humor, love and commitment. It has been a real joy as well as an honor to work with her. She continues to serve this organization without reserve. We are all lucky to have her. I also worked with many others who served as Board Chair, all of whom have become great friends including Charles Casey, Robert Michael Hersch, Colleen Mahoney-Greer, Michael Serres, Kris Masalsky, Sharon Kha, Caren Deming and the late Peter Treistman. Together we overcame repeated obstacles and roadblocks and persevered in delivering the best possible service to the greater Tucson community.

I've also enjoyed working with (and sometimes against) many city and cable company personnel, Mayors and City Council members and must single out Lisa Lavallo as an exemplary Cox local manager. Cox and Tucson are fortunate to have her in this position. And it has been a pleasure to be in the great company of colleagues Jennifer McKinney, Mary Canty, Joe Chitwood and many others as we fought together for our PEG community. Access Tucson and I have also been extremely well-served by corporate counsel John Escher and CPA Jimmy Lovelace. And we have enjoyed a terrific long association with David Becker in developing and marketing our Facíl software.

And I want to give special thanks to all of the great Access Tucson producers and volunteers. They created the purpose for us all to give our best and they continue to give their best to the community too.

I am very proud of what has been accomplished and am confident that Access Tucson will weather the current economic storm and emerge stronger, working toward establishing a vibrant community media center serving our community for decades to come."

Ms. Horner's Statement

"There is a definite and bright future for community media in Tucson—as well as a more equal, collaborative relationship between government and educational access and Tucson's community media organizations. It is a tragedy that our organization has suffered so greatly-five staff members were laid off in March, losing Sam adds salt to that wound. I will miss his leadership not only here at Access Tucson, but at the national level as well. He has been pivotal in making Access Tucson a well respected organization in Tucson and across the nation. I do have his cell phone number."

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