Karen Handville was an integral part of SCTV for more than 2 decades
By John Fitts
Karen Handville never set her sights on a career in television or any aspect of audio and video production but the fact that she’s been a staple at Simsbury Community Television for more than two decades isn’t too surprising when one learns she’s a veteran of doing things just a little differently than most of us.
This is after all, the person whose time in junior high school involved daily trips from Governors Island to Manhattan via a military bus and a ferry. It’s also the same person who, during her college years, drove a moped from her family’s home in Niantic to her job at Rocky Neck State Beach. Also, while attending college at Eastern Connecticut State College in Willimantic she reluctantly traveled to Enfield, Connecticut to see a band and, long story short, eventually married the guitar player.
It’s also the same Karen Handville who enthusiastically sought out work at a state campground after college, intrigued by the thought of meeting new people and getting a place to stay.
Sure – many of those ventures were short lived. The stint on Governors Island was just one of many stops in her dad’s Navy career. The beach gig was a seasonal job during her college years and Handville spent just one season at Austin Hawes Campground in Barkhamsted. (The job would end up being the most aligned with her Environmental Earth Science Degree).
But the point is Handville isn’t afraid to try new things. She estimates it was circa 1993 when she set on a path that would lead to such a long stint at Simsbury Community Television, eventually as station manager.
She and her husband, Rick, had lived in Granby since 1986 and at the time, Handville was a stay-at-home mom for the couple’s daughters, Lauren and Sharon.
She saw an article in the Granby Drummer highlighting the need for volunteers at the local community access station. She ended up volunteering and soon began training in areas such as production, field production and editing.
“I was having a blast with this. It was a little overwhelming and a little scary at first but this editing stuff – I don’t know why – but I was drawn to it. I just wanted to do this,” she said. “To me that’s the most fun in this whole environment – is to edit and work on a program.”
As much as she loved it, with a young family at home, Handville didn’t always love the trek to Enfield, so she decided to look into whether Simsbury Community Television was looking for volunteers.
She met then station manager, the late Gary Rosansky, and it wasn’t long before she was working on a show called Pets and People with producer Karin Hedlin.
“I offered to volunteer,” she said. “I wanted to help run a camera and do some editing.”
Special events soon followed and as would happen so many times over the years, they often involved much more than production values.
Early on, one involved a very hands-on and interactive Vacation Bible School at Covenant Presbyterian Church/The BARN. Since Handville’s girls were young, they tagged along and when the day was over, they didn’t want to stop attending. It was just one of many events over the years that made the SCTV experience memorable.
“They ended up going to vacation bible school for years after that. So, again, it was another example of having the opportunity to go somewhere or be somewhere with a camera in hand that I wouldn’t have normally participated in,” Handville said.
At SCTV, Handville soon got involved in training at the request of Steve Noble and Jerry Lintner and in 1997, when the station’s office administrator left, Handville took a part-time job in an expanded role of operations assistant.
“It gave me the opportunity to learn how the rest of the station was operating, in terms of how they did the playback for the three channels, which was all manual at the time and done by volunteers that signed up for a time slot during the week to be there at night to put tapes in and press play. That’s how it was set up in the 1990s.”
There were no computers at the station at the time. Today, a town meeting can be recorded with one remote camera and one person. Back then, it involved huge cameras in tripods and a dolly that were wheeled in place, two camera operators and someone in the control room.
“You needed at least three people to cover a meeting and now we can do it with one person,” Handville said.
Of course, that is just one example. There was much to learn about PEG – or the Public, Educational and Government – channels the station was responsible for.
“I made an effort to continuously learn new things as far as how the station was run, to understand PEG or community access television – to understand that role in the world because it is such a unique entity that most people don’t understand.”
Handville also expanded her knowledge and connections through other area access stations and the Alliance for Community Media.
Part of her motivation was to learn enough so Rosansky could truly take some time off.
“There was a lot of learning that took place over a period of time, specifically for Gary. It was so the guy could have a day off,” Handville said.
Sadly, Rosansky fell ill and Handville ended up filling in. And when Rosansky wasn’t able to return to work, she was offered the position of station manager, a role she filled from the mid 2000s until just a couple of months ago.
Handville worked in a very hands-on manner, coordinating coverage and volunteers, scheduling programming, filming, edition and performing the myriad of other tasks involved in running a community station. She even helped keep the town informed with a program called “Headlines Simsbury” and reportedly wasn’t afraid to grab a broom and dustpan if such a need arose.
Of course, the technological changes that have taken place since then could fill volumes and her job included overseeing numerous upgrades and changes in the way service is delivered.
Today, SCTV’s three channels continue to air to cable subscribers in town but the station’s web site, social media and YouTube channels have become immensely popular and provide an easy way for people to access programs on their own time.
And the landscape is still evolving. Primary funding for community access comes through a per-subscriber rate, set by the state legislature, for cable subscribers. With so many “cutting the cord,” Handville does worry about the future of community access and while the non-profit has much community support – including space provided by the town and community and business donations – she does worry about the challenges it could face in the future.
And while the financial future of Public Access might not be hers to solve, Handville will continue to play a role as recording secretary for The Hartford Area Cable Television Advisory Council.
For Handville, the greatest part of the job was working with people. She loved working closely with the Chamber of Commerce and so many organizations and people.
“I am missing so many people that I have made connections with, like the Chamber of Commerce. That’s one of the things I did on some regular basis before COVID. There’s a lot of people in other groups and organizations. I’m going to miss this community has a whole. I feel like I moved but it does open up that door for me to actually learn about my community that I live in.”
Handville also loved meeting those who wanted to start their own show on the public channel. It was one of her favorite aspects of the job.
“I think working with somebody new who wanted to put a program together and being able to work with them and accomplish that and to have them be excited and happy about and realize it was doable – I think that was probably the biggest boost that I got,” she said.
Handville recently took an office administrator job at South Congregational Church in Granby.
She wasn’t actively looking but with her husband now retired, the idea of a part time job was ruminating in her head.
She and her husband were working for the church during COVID to livestream and record services when the position became available.
“I said this is that part time job that I didn’t know how I was ever going to find because I wasn’t actively looking,” she said. “It was only something that was in my head. I hadn’t actually made an effort and when this shows up like that, I really have to shake my head and say ‘OK I think this was meant to be.’”
Her husband Rick recently retired from MassMutual and was most recently putting together in-house audio/visual training productions. Naturally, the couple plans to continue putting together some video productions for a few local organizations close to home.
And Handville will help shine a light on another of her husband’s talents. He plays guitar for LittleHouse, a project of singer/songwriter Joe Patrina and Handville has begun running lights for the band.
Handville will now also have more time to spend with her daughters and on other pursuits. She, for example, loves to ski.
But Handville said the decision certainly comes with mixed feelings.
Handville said she regrets only giving two-week’s notice since everything happened so quickly, but she also feels the timing left fewer chances to second guess herself.
“The only good thing was it happened so fast that I didn’t have time to agonize over the decision and, believe me, it’s been a hard decision
As to what she will miss the most, Handville said it’s easy – “Simsbury in general.”
“There’s no lack of participation in Simsbury. It really does seem like you’ve got an active community that cares about their community, that wants to do good for their community, that wants to make things better. That’s very positive and that’s nice to be around and it’s nice to be part of that,” Handville said. “There are lots of organizations over the years that we helped get their message out, whether it was an event or their mission in the world. It was just all positive. I have to say that there were very few things that were negative.
Simsbury is just a great place. It really is. It was a pleasure to be here, to work here and to make connections and that’s definitely going to be missed.”
Dominique Avery, long time media veteran and SCTV volunteer was doing publicity for Septemberfest in 1995 when she came across some video that Handville had shot the year before.
Over the years, she got to know Handville quite well. Avery said Handville oversaw “extraordinary growth and change in the facilities and the technology, in the number of shows we can do, the fact that we can go live on TV and online.”
“Not only did she do all that, she put together the program schedule, and on the side, she even started her own show to keep people informed of what was going on in town,” Avery said.
“None of this was easy,” Avery added to the remarks, which came at a recent event honoring Handville. “It’s not been simple to juggle all the different groups she answered to and worked with: town officials, the public, SCTV board members and yes the volunteers, some with brilliant ideas and talents and some rather kooky. But what made Karen special is how she did everything with grace and good humor and an eagerness to embrace change. I am very sure that what we have achieved would not have been possible without Karen. We will miss you.”
Coffee with Karen Handville
We recently visited The Coffee Spot and sat down with Karen Handville, long time station manager at SCTV, to learn a little more about her.
What is your favorite coffee drink?
Anything decaffeinated. I know for real coffee drinkers that’s just insane but the drug bothers me. I love coffee but the caffeine doesn’t like me.
What is your favorite food?
What is your favorite season?
People hate me when I say this but I love winter because I like to go skiing. I really like skiing and it’s such a short time frame that you can do some good skiing, especially in the east.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
I guess the best way to describe it would be to keep things in perspective. The longer story is. ... one of our past presidents…. I would be very upset about something that didn’t go well or whatever and he would always say to me, ‘nobody died.’ I told him, ‘you are going to be with me for the rest of my life. I will hear you say that.’ And it’s to keep things in perspective. It’s a ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ kind of concept – easy advice to give, hard to live by when you’re not that kind of person, but that was probably really important that I heard that.
What tops your bucket list?
I don’t know how realistic it is – to visit Finland. Yes, cold country and Alaska. People don’t understand that at all, but it’s in my blood. Both sides of my family have Finnish blood.
Do you have a favorite hobby?
Skiing – and a very big love of music, even though I can’t participate. I can only listen.
What piece of wisdom you’d give your childhood self?
Maybe don’t take yourself so seriously all the time. My husband is so much more of a make light of it, joke around [kind of person] and I think there’s a value to that but it’s not in my DNA.
What do people not appreciate enough?
I suppose it might just be that women are capable and sometimes people don’t recognize that.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Just trying to do the best that you can in everything that you do. To be dependable. I’m not an exceptional person. I certainly haven’t contributed anything exceptional to the world. I’ve done my job – hopefully to the best of my ability.