PITTSTON — Bill Kelly joked he didn’t get into public broadcasting to be a fundraiser.
Now the man who spent nearly 40 years at WVIA television and radio — more than 20 of them as its leader — is handing over the reins to concentrate on development of the organization’s $700,000 endowment fund.
Members of the station’s board of directors on Thursday elected Tom Currá, 51, as WVIA’s president and chief executive officer, while Kelly was named president emeritus and chief development officer.
Currá, a former commercial broadcaster and independent filmmaker, joined the staff in 2004.
Both moves were made in conjunction with a three-year strategic plan adopted by the board, under which Kelly said he aims to boost the endowment to $5 million.
Kelly confirmed that he will draw a yearly salary of $199,000, while Currá said he will be paid $150,000 per year for work at the station, which has an annual budget of slightly more than $4 million, according to Kelly.
Kelly said he recommended Currá as his successor during conversations with the board’s personnel committee in October. After months of research, the board concurred.
“I think there were a number of outstanding people that could have succeeded him,” board Chairman Harmar Brereton said. “It became apparent that Tom Currá had the skills for leading a not-for-profit public broadcasting organization like WVIA.”
According to his online resume at the website www.imdb.com, Currá is a native Long Islander who spent 20 years providing technical services to commercial network sporting events around the country, as well as editing documentary films. He came to WVIA after making and funding a regional movie called “Stories from the Mines.” That film became the single most successful local program and fundraiser at WVIA to that time, station officials said.
“I thought, when I first got here, that it was just going to be a whistle stop,” Currá said Thursday.
But after years of spending hundreds of days on the road, away from his young family, the change of pace was a welcome one — as was the opportunity to work on documentaries and other regional programming. That is a tradition he hopes to continue.
“We look at great stories that we can produce to give the regional folks a sense of pride in what has happened here, and how we have contributed to the development of this country,” Currá said.
Kelly, 65, who joined the station in 1974, led the station through some of its most difficult years, as government funding for public broadcasting was slashed in the climate of austerity which followed the 2008 recession. He said he is in good health and anticipates fulfilling his three-year commitment to the new role — and possibly longer — if asked to serve. Given the time, he hopes to work past his initial goal and help the station hit an endowment of $10 million within a decade.
“Bill and I will be working very closely together on financial issues,” Currá said.