Behrend out at Access Tucson after 26 years
Sam Behrend's 26-year tenure at Access Tucson will end on Saturday.
Behrend, who has helmed Tucson's public access TV agency since 1987, was released from his contract by the organization's board Thursday night.
"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," said Access Tucson's board chair, J. Lisa Jones in a emailed release.
The statement from Access Tucson said that "fiscal hardships caused by a series of funding cuts from the City of Tucson" forced the organization to cancel Behrend's contract.
"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," Behrend said in an email tribute to his co-workers over the years.
Training Director Lisa Horner, who has worked at Access Tucson since 1986, was named the acting executive director of the organization.
"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," Horner said.
"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."
Access Tucson has seen its budget, which is primarily funded by the City of Tucson, cut by about two thirds during the past several years.
City officials have discussed eliminating funding for the public access provider, or co-locating it with the city's in-house television operation, Channel 12.
Behrend, with Jan Lesher, La Monte Ward and Jerry Anderson, was on the team that started the organization in 1984, when it was known as Tucson Community Cable Corp. He was named executive director in 1987.
"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," Behrend said.
Disclosure: Access Tucson acts as a fiscal sponsor for TucsonSentinel.com. However, there is no connection between Access Tucson’s budget and that of TucsonSentinel.com. TucsonSentinel.com’s offices are located in the Access Tucson building.