TULSA, Okla. - The host of KRMG's morning news has accepted a position at a sister station in Florida and Friday Joe Kelly will bid farewell to his Green Country listeners.
He arrived in Tulsa in 2005 during a time of great upheaval for himself and his family.
"We moved to Tulsa on literally the day that we found out that my wife was not only pregnant, but pregnant with twins. So, the idea of relocating with a new job, a new house, new schools, new car -- everything was new. We were doing everything all in one experience... and that was moving to Tulsa."
From the moment he arrived, says KRMG's Rick Couri, he went into action.
"He had a 90-day plan, meet 90 people in 90 days when he first got this job, and they were important people," Couri said. "Three months into this job, you'd have thought he'd been here 20 years. If he needed to get the mayor he called the mayor on the phone, and I don't mean on the office phone, on their cell phone. If he needed the Chief of Police he called him on his cell phone."
Former Program Director Drew Anderssen adds that "I've never seen anyone become so quickly engrained in a community the way that Joe did in Tulsa in 2005. Joe's efforts to support Tulsa through membership and service at Rotary Club of Downtown Tulsa, service on a number of non-profit boards of directors, including the Make A Wish Foundation of Oklahoma and keynote speaker at countless Tulsa events, are all models of civic responsibility most don't take the time (nor aspire) to achieve."
Anderssen precedes Kelley in the move to Orlando, where the pair will reunite at WDBO, a sister station to KRMG in the Cox Media Group.
He hopes Kelley can do what he did in Tulsa, as it's a similar scenario: He's taking over for a morning show host who's been on the air for decades.
"Joe helped lead KRMG's morning news program into new success and territory following Tulsa icon and former KRMG Morning Host, John Erling. It was that leadership that allowed him to take over as News Director, and ultimately help transition KRMG to once again become the #1 radio station in Tulsa," Anderssen said.
CMG Vice President and Marketing Manager Gene Vidler also noted Kelley's commitment. "One of Joe's greatest strengths is just his passion for whatever it is he does, whether it's the morning news or whether it's helping out the community."
Kelley served in recent years not only as host of the KRMG Morning News, but also as News Director.
After he leaves, those posts will be filled by Dan Potter and April Hill, respectively.
Hill says she's sorry to see him go.
"I've never had a boss like him, and having another like him is going to be next to impossible," she says.
And, she admits it's going to be tough to get through Joe's last day on the air because of the emotions that day will invoke. "My tears are finally drying, and I'm worried about the last day. I'm worried about not being able to do my job," she said.
As for Potter, he says he tips his hat to Kelley's work ethic. "Running this beast of a newsroom, for a market this size, he's the hardest-working person I've ever worked with."
Those who've worked with Kelley know he doesn't pull his punches when asked a tough question. Asked about his greatest challenge at KRMG, he made it clear that he cares about what he does and the people whose stories he covers. "It is a challenge to not, on some days, just sit here and cry when you hear about the heartbreak, and the tragedy, and the loss, and the death, and the suffering, and the pain. You know some days you just have to build a little wall around yourself to pretend that it doesn't affect you, but boy, it does. I mean, it gets you down."
He lists his greatest achievement at the radio station as his fundraising efforts for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
This week, he will conduct his final "Stories of Light" fundraiser for the group, and it's indicative of his dedication that he told his bosses he didn't want to leave Tulsa until he saw it through.