Leslie Wilcox leaves KHON for top local PBS position
Longtime television newswoman Leslie Wilcox is leaving her anchor chair at No. 1-rated KHON-2 for the executive suite at PBS Hawaii.
Name: Leslie Wilcox
New position: Chief executive officer and president of PBS Hawaii
Currently: Co-anchor of the "Hawaii at Five" news on KHON-TV and co-coordinator of the Lokahi Project
Experience: Began reporting at age 18 for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Worked as a reporter, anchor and news director at KGMB9 for 15 years. Joined KHON-TV in 1992 as executive producer and anchor of Channel 2's extended morning news program. Wilcox also worked 10 years for PBS Hawaii in the 1980s and '90s as Honolulu anchor for the nationally syndicated program "Asia Now."
Wilcox, 52, announced the move yesterday at the end of KHON's 5 p.m. newscast. The respected news veteran of 34 years praised her co-workers for her success and said she was rooting for them as she prepares to run the locally owned, nonprofit station.
"I have a feeling that I'm really ready for new challenges and a new role in my life," she told the Star-Bulletin after the broadcast.
The selection of Wilcox ends a nationwide search by the PBS board of directors conducted after former President Mike McCartney stepped down in May to head the Democratic Party of Hawaii.
Wilcox will start her new job as chief executive officer and president of PBS Hawaii on March 12. Her last day as a full-time news anchor will be March 2, but she will return part time to KHON in late April through May for the TV ratings "sweeps" period while continuing to work for PBS.
In the lobby of the news station yesterday, Joseph McNamara, KHON president and general manager, and Neil Hannahs, chairman of the PBS board of directors, announced her departure to co-workers.
KHON released Wilcox from a contract with two years remaining so she could pursue an opportunity that might not be available down the road, she said.
"It was a tough decision," said McNamara, adding that management will look for a replacement in the newsroom, locally and nationally.
PBS Hawaii recruited Wilcox, who also has experience working for PBS part time as the Honolulu anchor of "Asia Now," which aired in 166 cities across the nation.
Hannahs said a person with leadership skills was important to the board.
He complemented Wilcox as a leader of a news team and her strong industry background and relationships in the local market, which will help in fundraising, an important function as a nonprofit CEO.
Wilcox admits she has a lot to learn about running a nonprofit, but she is not going in cold.
While at KGMB she worked on the Giving Tree, and at KHON helped found the Lokahi Project, which has grown from a holiday drive for needy families to a year-round emergency assistance program. The Lokahi Project, which began in 1992, will remain at KHON TV.
Asked what she would bring to PBS Hawaii, she said, "I'm a good listener, and I know a good idea when I hear one. I would like to develop more quality local programming."
Wilcox praised PBS as one of the most trusted institutions in America and a survivor through years of turmoil in Hawaii.
"It belongs here. It has its roots here. It has wonderful opportunities," she said.
Hannahs said, "Her industry experience has been wonderful ... but it's her heart that we found most compelling."