KFSK a brief history

In October 1975, the Mitkof Mummers began meeting.  The central figure in this group was Sandy Slack, owner of Sandy’s, eventually The Homestead Café.  In December of that year, Sandy invited her friend Elaine Mitchell to Petersburg.  Mitchell is now regarded as the “grandmother of public broadcasting in Alaska”.   Ruth Sandvik’s “Purple Librarian” column in the Petersburg Pilot was instrumental in promoting the activities of the fledgling Corporation and radio station.

The rise of the Narrows Broadcasting Corporation parallels the rise of the City of Kupreanof and involves many of the same players. By February, 1976, the Narrows Broadcasting Corporation was official.

KFSK began broadcasting a diverse community oriented program schedule on September 8, 1977. The “studio” was located in the Arts and Crafts room of Petersburg’s “old gym” (razed in 1990). In these early days, the station would turn on in the morning, turn off during the afternoon, and turn on again for a few hours in the evening. Construction of the station was carried out by and under the supervision of Al Champagne, a volunteer, member of the original board of directors, and an Alascom technician.

By 1982, parts of the old gym were becoming a fire hazard and KFSK was outgrowing its closet-like quarters. The KFSK board under the leadership of new board members, including City Manager Rich Underkofler, negotiated the purchase of the 3000-square foot Assembly of God church building across the street at the corner of 2nd and Charles W.

Attorney Fred Triem represented the station in the real estate transaction, he later served on the board from 1986-2004, making him the longest serving board director in the station’s history. The purchase of the building and subsequent renovation was made possible by help from state legislator Ernie Haugen. The conversion of the building from church to radio station was done by a young Petersburg carpenter named Tom Bodette, who has since become a noted radio personality.

In 1984, KFSK built a new 150-foot tower and increased its power to 2000-watts, assuring reception of public radio service to the mountainous Petersburg area. By 1992, two translators were added to extend KFSK service to Point Baker, Port Protection and the Sumner Strait fishing grounds. Modifications to the translators spread the signal further to Seymour Canal to the north and Baranof Warm Springs to the west and Port Alexander to the south.

In 1997-1998 the station transitioned down to three full-time staff with the help of a few part timers, and many, many, volunteers. This is one of the smallest staffs since the early days – in 1983 the staff included 20 full and part time employees. The downsizing transition coincided with the incorporation of “CoastAlaska”, a regional organization intended to provide, financial, fundraising and engineering support to the public radio stations in Southeast. The stations created CoastAlaska because of severe reductions in state and federal funding.

KFSK has always been a product of the people working and volunteering at the station. There are too many staff and volunteers to list in this overview. However, below is a summary of General Managers, Program Directors and News Directors over the years.

General Managers
’78-79 Terry Otness
’79-82 Dave Molvik
’82-85 Bill Legere
’85-86 Juris Janson
’86-87 Don Nicholson
’87-97 Matt Holmes                                                                                                                                                                                                 ’97- Tom Abbott

Program Directors
’78-79 Jeanette Ness
’79-80 Jim Skinner
’80-85 Katie Sloan
’85-94 Deb Boettcher                                                                                                                                                                                                ’94- Tom Abbott

News Directors
’79-80 Jon Newstrom
’80-82 Bill Legere
’82-83 Glenda Corino
’83-85 Peter Kenyon
’85-86 Matt Holmes
’86-87 Su Rappleye
’87-87 Chris Todd
’87-89 Amy Miller
’89-89 Sonia Neubauer
’89-90 Val Miller
’90-92 Kerry Beebe
’92-93 Kim Hastings
’93-94 John Back
’94-98 Amy Miller
’98-2013 Matt Lichtenstein                                                                                                                                                                                       2013- Joe Viechnicki