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Jenn Gordon tapped as WTVP's next president and CEO

Jenn Gordon will become the next president and CEO of WTVP on April 22.
Tim Shelley
Jenn Gordon will become the next president and CEO of WTVP on April 22.

A familar face to Peoria's arts community will become WTVP's next president and CEO on April 22.

Jenn Gordon is a Peoria native and the current executive administrator at Grace Presbyterian Church. Before that, she led ArtsPartners of Central Illinois for seven years. She is also the former host of WCBU's Out and About.

At a Thursday press conference at the PBS station's Peoria studios, Gordon said she's in for the long haul and excited about what's to come in the years ahead.

"We have something that maybe WTVP hasn't had: momentum," Gordon said. "This is a time for our community to reengage and re-experience and experience for the first time this incredible asset that Peoria has."

Gordon was unanimously selected as the station's next executive by WTVP's board of directors at a special board meeting Wednesday. More than 70 candidates applied, and three finalists were interviewed by a search committee.

"I think we're extremely fortunate to have a candidate with such a wonderful combination of business acumen, commitment to the arts, and profound interest in building up people and making teams operate very functionally to the benefit of the organization," said Heather Acerra, who served on the search committee. "And I think that those qualities are going to lead WTVP to have a tremendous impact on the community as well."

WTVP's woes over the past several months are well-known at this point. The death by suicide of former president and CEO Lesley Matuszak was the start of a highly public chain of tumultuous events at WTVP which saw $1.5 million in cuts, layoffs, the mothballing of Peoria magazine, and the resignations of 11 board members.

The station has accused Matuszak and former finance and HR director Lin McLaughlin of financial mismanagement that contributed to the station's dire financial straits, along with the red ink spilled on the station's balance sheet by Peoria magazine's high costs.

The allegations of mismanagement remain under criminal investigation. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting's inspector general is also auditing the station's finances before the private not-for-profit corporation will release WTVP's vital fiscal year 2024 Community Service Grant.

Gordon said the station's new board of directors, and an accompanying $1.2 million in financial commitments, gave her the confidence to take on the role.

"I tend to be drawn to organizations that have a lot of potential, but perhaps have recently gone through times of crisis, or even internally or externally, there's something that's amiss. It's a big challenge that needs some sorting," Gordon said. "That's something that makes me lean in. And obviously, this is the case of WTVP."

Gordon said she wants to start by listening to station staff and the community, and ensuring everyone feels like they have a voice in the public television station's future.

"Any nonprofit is going to live or die based on the enthusiasm and the support of its community. So it's going to be a time of getting the message out," she said. "I think, again, WTVP, it is a crown jewel of Central Illinois. And it also has a very easy mission to support."

Board chairman John Wieland said he remains confident the CPB will ultimately release the station's FY24 grant, and he's also confident community trust is being restored.

"All we need is, like Jenn said, for the communities, the $60, the $90, the $120 (donations). That is our lifeblood, and these are good days for the community. And we are excited," he said.

WTVP serves the Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, and Galesburg areas with PBS programming. It is not affiliated with WCBU.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.