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Personnel File - July 2008: entertainment


Elsie Garner
President/CEO, WTVI Inc.

Elsie Garner, 61, has made a career of television, yet the WTVI president and CEO spent her early years without one. The daughter of missionaries in Trujillo, Peru, she got rare glimpses of TV when the family made trips to Lima. When they returned to the U.S. when she was 12, she began a love affair with the medium that continues to this day. A month after graduating from high school in Tampa, Fla., she went to work writing press releases for WEDU, the local public station. She left a few years later when her husband took a teaching job at an international school in Bolivia. Moving back to Tampa seven years later, she took up her old job and quickly rose through the ranks. By the time she was named acting president in 2002, she had earned a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies from the University of South Florida, raised four children and held every job at the station except for engineer. In 2003, she and her husband moved to Charlotte, where she succeeded WTVI President and CEO Hal Bouton, who retired after 20 years in the job.

“When I was in sixth grade, a couple of times a week we watched a program on Japanese brush painting. The whole concept of the teacher being in the little box instead of in the classroom was very interesting, and I began to be aware of the different things television could do. That sense of awe has never quite left me. It still amazes me that you can sit down in your living room and you can turn on this electric thing and you have the whole world at your disposal.”

“People are not as closely connected to the common good as they once were. They’re just not paying attention to civic affairs. Americans do not realize what a great thing we have here in this country, to be able to vote, to call or write our elected leaders. So I thought, what if we could use this medium of television to make a difference in the community? What if we could invite the viewers in by means of electronic communication? It’s a big experiment. But of course, America itself is a big experiment.”