Jim Pagliarini, who elevated Twin Cities Public Television’s reputation on the national scene while ushering the institution into the digital age, announced Friday that he will be leaving as president and CEO of the St. Paul-based station.
Over the past two decades, Pagliarini’s station earned several national Emmys and launched both the Minnesota Channel, which carries programming developed in partnership with nonprofit organizations, and Next Avenue, a website directed at people over 50. He also opened the station’s doors three years ago to public events that attract more than 40,000 visitors annually.
“It’s hard to leave, but there’s no doubt that this is the right time,” said Pagliarini, who informed the staff of his decision Friday morning, then retreated to his home to avoid teary conversations. “There are stories about sports people who stay two or three years too long. I wanted to go at the top of my game.”
Pagliarini, who turns 65 this month, also believes the station is in great health. High-profile projects in the works include a six-part documentary on dictators and the cartoon series, “Hero Elementary,” both of which will be seen nationwide in 2019 or 2020.
A search for his successor will begin immediately, the station announced Friday. Pagliarini said he will stay until a replacement is found and will help in the transition. A high-profile search of this nature usually takes at least six months.
“Jim’s contributions have been innumerable,” said board chair Sally Mullen, who will lead the hunt for a new president. “He’s been accessible, thoughtful and determined. Once he makes up his mind about something he’s laser focused.”
Pagliarini will be moving back to Reno, where he founded that city’s public television station before moving to the Twin Cities. His wife, Elizabeth Raymond, is a professor of American history at the University of Nevada.
The couple met at Princeton University, where Pagliarini studied biology and the power and influence of TV on children. He earned a master’s degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, where he completed research on “Sesame Street” and “Mister Rogers.”
Current leaders at many public-television stations across the country are leaving, as the Young Turks of the 1980s are now facing retirement age. Malcolm Brett of Wisconsin Public Broadcasting announced last fall that he would be retiring as president.
“Almost every leader of a PBS station is of my generation,” Pagliarini said. “There’s a huge changing of the guard right now.”
Other key players at TPT have also departed in recent years, including Gerry Richman, senior vice president of productions; Richard Hudson, who was instrumental in bringing the groundbreaking education series “SciGirls” to the screen; and producer Catherine Allan, whose credits include “Hoop Dreams” and “Slavery By Another Name.”
“Jim was a really creative leader who had a strong vision on how TPT and public media could survive and innovate in a digital age,” Allan said. “He wasn’t afraid of disrupting established ways of doing things.”