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President of Watertown’s WPBS-DT to retire

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The man who helped guide Watertown’s public broadcasting station from the analog to the digital age has decided “it’s time” to hand the controls over to someone else.

Thomas F. Hanley, president and general manager of WPBS-DT, said Monday that he plans to retire June 28 after more than 18 years leading the nonprofit public television station based on Arsenal Street.

“I’ve had a good ride,” he said. “I know that the station itself is in significantly better shape than when I came here.”

Under Mr. Hanley, WPBS spent nine years and about $9 million upgrading its equipment to conform with a government mandate that all TV stations switch from analog broadcasts to the sharper digital broadcasting, which he said was the biggest accomplishment of his tenure.

While the federal government contributed “significant funds” toward the upgrades, Mr. Hanley and WPBS had to conduct numerous fundraising campaigns over the years to fully modernize the station, which reaches more than 600,000 households in the north country and southeastern Ontario.

“We really had to go out there and talk about the project and have the people decide if it was worth an extra $200 or $500 to them,” Mr. Hanley said. “It worked out well and we raised the money.”

Mr. Hanley credits WPBS employees for any success the station has had. While no replacement for him has been named, he said he believes he is leaving the station in capable hands.

“We have good people here,” he said. “My staff is wonderful. The people we have here now are very, very competent. They are all willing to do more than one job.”

Mr. Hanley said he is most proud of envisioning and then constructing the James W. Wright Community Center, a meeting room at WPBS’s offices that can accommodate up to 50 people and is available for use by any organization at no cost. He said many organizations that have used the room have returned the favor by having members volunteer for WPBS fundraisers.

One goal Mr. Hanley was not able to complete, and one he is confident will happen someday, is to install a handicapped-accessible lift between the station’s first and second floors.

“That’s the last thing I wanted to accomplish, but I don’t think I’ll get it done in my time here,” he said.

Mr. Hanley, who came to Watertown in 1986 as a vice president with Fleet Bank, and his wife, Mary Anne, director of marketing for the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, have purchased a home in Palmetto, Fla., and plan to live there full time after Mrs. Hanley retires. That means Mr. Hanley’s retirement also may create some voids at other nonprofits; he has served as board president for Rotary, Northern New York-Fort Drum Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce and Catholic Charities, among his numerous involvements with civic organizations.

The Hanleys still will have family ties to the north country, as daughters Elizabeth A. Maurer and Christine M. Cisco live here. A third daughter, Mary Pat King, lives outside Washington, D.C.

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