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Rick Best, retiring WQPT GM. April 11, 2012 (Larry Fisher/QUAD-CITY TIMES)

After working for 26 1/2 years at WQPT-TV in Moline, nearly the past 15 as general manager, Rick Best is retiring from the Quad-City Public Broadcasting Service station.

Best’s resignation is effective June 30 so he can take advantage of a higher pension rate for Illinois public employees.

“Maybe there’s something else out there in the world for me to take a look at,” said Best, who lists his age as “58 1/2.”

Best’s tenure with WQPT has had its rocky moments, particularly when its former owner, Black Hawk College, cut the station’s funding in its 2007 budget.

“The college, very legitimately, had other priorities they needed to tend to and direct funding toward,” he said.

Best and the WQPT board of directors looked at many options to keep the station operational.

“We were prepared to take on the license as a community organization, independent from any school or university,” he said.

But a new direction came in 2009, after Joe Rives, the vice president for the Quad-City (Moline) campus of Western Illinois University, joined the station’s board of directors.

After Best asked for Western’s help with payroll and insurance, Rives countered with the idea of the university taking over as the owner-operator of WQPT, even though the station is responsible for its own funding.

Master control and the studios were taken over by a Davenport-based communications firm. Offices recently were moved from the Avenue of the Cities in Moline to the newly expanded Western Illinois campus on the riverfront.

Best said other highlights were the conversion to digital broadcasting before the commercial stations in the Quad-Cities did so and adding “The Cities with Jim Mertens” to mark the return of local public affairs programming.

Before he leaves, Best said, he’d like to be able to convert the station’s transmitter in the Sterling-Rock Falls, Ill., area to digital and complete plans for WQPT’s conversion to high-definition.

Raised in Green Rock (now part of Colona), Ill., Best attended Black Hawk and received his master’s degree in business administration from Northern Illinois University. He worked with a publisher for several years and began volunteering for the TV station. He was hired as a secretary, then as business manager and next as assistant to the general manager.

Best said he is proud of the 11 members of the station’s staff, many of whom have had to consolidate duties.

“We have a fantastic staff who will have no problem keeping things going during this transition from one GM to another,” he said. “I’ll certainly miss those folks.”

As for his own future, Best is not making any decisions until after his retirement begins.

“At this point in time, I honestly have no plans after July 1,” he said.

“I will no doubt be looking around for other employment possibilities, maybe something part-time,” he added. “If there’s nothing like that, maybe I’ll be a full-time volunteer.”

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