Most people don’t spend much time thinking about where their cable television comes from (at least until the bill arrives). The South Washington County Telecommunications Commission (SWCTC) doesn’t want Woodbury residents to worry—they’ve got cable covered.
Launched in the early 1980s, the SWCTC is the local cable television franchising authority, overseeing agreements between cable television providers and the cities of Woodbury, Cottage Grove, Newport, St. Paul Park and Grey Cloud Island Township. Currently, the SWCTC brings Comcast, the only cable provider in South Washington County, to residents.
While the commission was created to bring cable to local communities, it is also a big provider of local programming. Currently, the SWCTC employs four producers, each with their own local shows, three part-time cable casters and a master control specialist.
Fran Hemmesch, a television industry veteran, is the administrator of the SWCTC. She has overseen the operation since its inception. “We're trying to bring government closer to the people,” Hemmesch says. The local programming features city council meetings and other city meetings. They also feature candidate profiles during election season, giving South Washington County residents local election coverage that few communities can match. "Here in South Washington County, people are really into local government,” Hemmesch says. “They want to see their meetings and they want to know what's going on in their cities."
In Woodbury, Woodbury Citystyle highlights different projects and stories around town. Each program is 20 to 30 minutes long, and airs monthly on channel 18. The show was created as a way to help promote the city and help residents stay on top of local happenings.
“I love doing programs that show the city doing things people take for granted,” says Woodbury Citystyle producer Bob McSherry. He has helmed the show since it began in 2008 and has produced nearly 80 episodes. Topics range from stories on the Bielenberg Sports Center to behind-the-scenes looks at municipalities and public works like plowing streets in the winter, or exploring the city’s waterworks.
In his role, McSherry serves as writer, producer, editor and director—basically the behind-the-scenes jobs you would find at bigger news stations like KARE 11 or WCCO-TV, all rolled into one. He works with city of Woodbury communications coordinator Jason Egerstrom on story ideas, goes out and shoots interviews and segments around town, and brings footage back to the SWCTC studios to edit and create a program using state-of-the-art equipment.
Beyond Woodbury Citystyle, the SWCTC produces Weekly Wire, a roundup of news and notes from all South Washington County communities, plus other programming that focuses on Cottage Grove, Newport and St. Paul Park. First Response, another Woodbury-focused program, is hosted by local public safety employees and gives residents a look at what’s going on inside the fire and police departments in Woodbury. “The programs are another tool in our communication toolbox,” Egerstrom says. “Any way we can reach the public is something we are interested in doing.”
While local programming has become the key component of the SWCTC, the commission offers additional resources like maintaining most of the video equipment around the city. Residents can also contact SWCTC if they are having issues with Comcast and are unable to connect with the cable provider directly.
With all the services the SWCTC provides, their work affects every resident of Woodbury. Next time you flip on your television, you’ll know exactly where the cable comes from.
Woodbury Citystyle, First Response and Weekly Wire can be found on channel 18. Live broadcasts of city council and commission meetings can be found on channel 16. For a full list of programs and past episodes, and more information on the SWCTC, visit swctc.org.