WHQR once again is searching for a leader. The Wilmington public radio media outlet announced Wednesday that station manager Kurt Wilson will be leaving Feb. 25. Programming director and Morning Edition local host Ken Campbell – a 30-year veteran of public media – is stepping in as interim station manager.
The nonprofit, listener-supported news and classical-music station has grown in recent years, adding both more local news and local-music programming.
Wilson’s departure means WHQR will be searching for its third leader since August 2017, when then station manager Cleve Callison retired. Michelle Rhinesmith took over manager duties in August 2017, coming to WHQR from a public radio station in Orlando, Florida. In September 2019, the station announced Rhinesmith was returning to Florida. WHQR announced
Wilson's hiring in January 2020.
Prior to joining WHQR, Wilson had worked in public media for nearly two decades in Montana and Michigan. He and his wife are returning to Michigan to be closer to family, according to a news release.
Board Chair Jon McLamb lauded Wilson for his work at WHQR, almost all of which has come amid the pandemic.
“Under Kurt's watch, WHQR expanded our local news coverage to include new programming like The Newsroom and bolstered our classical music offerings with our newest show, Allegro,” McLamb said. “Kurt leaves behind a stronger, more capable NPR station than the one he joined."
He said the board will update the station manager job description to reflect any changes in direction made since Wilson was hired. Even through the pandemic, McLamb added public support has remained strong and the station is in good shape financially.
Based on past searches, the board expects to hire a station manager within the next six months, McLamb said.
“We can hope for faster, however, the Board will prioritize finding the right candidate to lead WHQR in the future over moving fast,” he said.
Top priorities for the station remain financial resilience and engagement of the entire Wilmington community. “WHQR will continue our focus on reflecting the community we serve so that everyone feels engaged in our station through inclusive reporting and information on music and the arts.”
Meanwhile, Campbell said he's not decided at this time if will pursue the station manager job permanently. “There are several priorities Kurt has undertaken that he is trying to wrap up,” Campbell said. “My job will be to see through anything that's still unresolved at the end of his time. Otherwise, my role is simply to keep my hand on the rudder.”
Campbell said he will continue to be on the air but will take more days off air to allow for meetings and to see certain projects through. “I will continue to program the station and perform my operational roles, in conjunction with other operations staff,” he said.
According to 2020-21 IRS filings, Friends of Public Radio Doing Business as WHQR had $1.9 million in revenues and $1.57 million in expenses. At the end of last June, the station had $1.5 million in assets available to meet general expenditures for 12 months. Wilson's salary for fiscal year 2020-21 was $90,675. Rhinesmith’s last-reported salary was $73,445.
Editor's note: Scott Nunn is an independent journalist and contributes content to WHQR as a freelancer.