After 35 years at the community radio station, Randy Wynne is stepping down as program director of WMNF Tampa 88.5-FM. Wynne, who moved to Tampa from Pennsylvania to take the job in 1985, announced his retirement at an all-station meeting last year, but WMNF’s two-month search is already over.
On Tuesday afternoon, WMNF General Manager Rick Fernandes told station staff and programmers that Samantha Hval (aka Sam Sloane) would officially start at WMNF on Feb. 15. WMNF made the news public at midnight Wednesday.
In his message to programmers, Fernandes said the decision was difficult due to the quality of the candidates.
“Often, finding the right candidate doesn't come down to a checklist or a resume, but something you can't put in words,” Fernandes wrote. “Sam hit that spot from the moment we met her.”
Hval, 26, is a St. Petersburg native and returns home after stints as an on-air host at Boston non-commercial station 88.9 WERS and Montpelier’s WNCS 104.7 The Point where she was production director and on-air host before quickly becoming its assistant program director and music director—a post she held until July 2020, according to her LinkedIn profile. In a Zoom call with CL, Hval said she is stoked and just over the moon about being home.
Wynne, 69, just celebrated 50 years of being in the radio industry, but plans to continue doing a show on WMNF. “I’m going to retire to doing radio as a volunteer,” Wynne told CL.
Fernandes wrote that Wynne will assist Hval—who was selected in part by a six-person search committee—during a transition period of March-June where she’ll learn her way around the building and the dynamics of the station. “Sam has the right skill sets to value what WMNF means to the community and, at the same time, grow our listener-supported station,” Fernandes added.
“Sam knows radio of course, but WMNF is its own creation,” Wynne said with a laugh before he and Hval conceded that they can’t share any new developments about how programming will change. “I'm really excited that the station's going with somebody who's younger than the typical WMNF-er. That's good for the station's image and for its sense of self… it’s like a rebirth.”
Naturally, the WMNF family of programmers has already bombarded Hval with warm welcomes before she even clocks in for day one. Hval reiterated that she’s not going to make a bunch of changes off the bat, and is looking forward to her adjustment period.
“I was a programming director at community radio in my mid-20s. When WMNF started all the staff were in their mid 20s back in 1979,” Wynne added. Plus, Hval’s youth and passion for community will serve her well as radio in general competes with podcasts and streaming services.
“Sometimes people have this idea that somebody in their 20s can't have enough experience, but that's not true at all. It's about being smart enough and being committed enough and passionate enough about the music and the medium. That's all you need,” Wynne said.
“Right now, in the pandemic, people want to be connected to their communities since we can't physically be connected. We can do that through radio,” Hval added. “WMNF is so community-focused in that way that people do feel connected even though we are physically far apart right now.”
UPDATED: 02/01/21 11:32 a.m. Updated with comments from Hval and Wynne.
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