SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s the end of an era today at KELOLAND Media Group. Our Vice President and General Manager Jay Huizenga is retiring; Thursday is his last day.
From the top story to commercial breaks and content online, it takes a team of people to bring you the news, and at the top of the chain of command at KELOLAND Media Group is our station’s general manager. Jay Huizenga has served in this role since 2007, and his most proud accomplishment is maintaining the legacy he inherited from predecessors.
“There’s no question about that, that is my most proud thing, and that’s what we try to teach here to anyone that comes in,” Huizenga said.
“He’s always remembered the legacy of the station, and so he’s always said to keep one foot in the past but always be moving ahead to the future,” said Paul Farmer, director of marketing & creative services at KELOLAND Media Group. “And so he’s never forgotten what the legacy of KELOLAND is.”
Huizenga’s journey as a part of KELOLAND Media Group began back in 1980 as a local account executive. He eventually became general sales manager.
“I started in the sales department, and by the time I got to be general manager, there had been a few general managers and quite a few things that had been done before that,” Huizenga said.
A lot has happened in the past four decades.
“We went all the way from having no internet, no website to developing a website and having it be the website that is so phenomenal today,” Huizenga said. “We’ve gone from standard definition to high definition, we’ve gone from analog to digital in terms of broadcasting.”
“He’s always tried to make himself available,” Jay’s wife, Jane Huizenga, said. “One example of that is when KELO-TV first went digital, there was an elderly woman that he got a call from, and she was unable to get her TV to work. So he stopped there on his way home from work one day and went into her home and helped her get her TV all set up.”
His wife also shares a story of when a KELO tower blew over in 2010.
“Tribal leaders notified Jay that they would not like it rebuilt on their sacred land,” Jane Huizenga said. “And he took that very personally, and made it a personal mission to be sure that that wish was accomplished.”
“I think the most important part of his legacy is that he was always confident in his decisions,” Jay’s daughter Megan Sage said. “Everything he did was for the greater good. He has an uncanny ability to kind of see how things are going to turn out in the end.”
You can’t accurately tell the story of Jay’s legacy here without including other people, too.
“One thing that Jay and I talk about all the time is that KELO is bigger than one person,” said Beth Jensen, news director at KELOLAND Media Group.
“A thing like KELOLAND is bigger than all of us, and so you just try to be a very good caretaker of that, use the platform for good, and make sure we continue to do local news,” Jay Huizenga said.
“Thanks to the people who started the station, thanks to those who came before us,” Jensen said. “They built such a strong legacy for us that we really just need to uphold it and keep it modern and innovate upon it. I think when they started the station, they could have never imagined digital, they could have never imagined all the different ways we would gather and produce content.”
On Thursday the station celebrated Jay Huizenga’s retirement. Perry Sook, chairman, president and CEO of KELOLAND Media Group’s parent company Nexstar Media Group, was on hand.
“Jay is the kind of general manager that we want active in the community, known in the community, known in civic and charitable organizations,” Sook said.
Jay Huizenga says his next steps aren’t entirely clear.
“People have asked me what I’m going to do next, and the answer is I don’t know,” Jay Huizenga said. “I’m going to get up Friday and find out.”
There’s at least one plan, though.
“I have never been a fisherman, and I’m going to take my grandson fishing ’cause we both want to learn together, so that’s going to be fun,” Jay Huizenga said.
Institutions become what they are because of the people who connect the past to the future.
“I’ve tried to build on what the founders of this company did, and I’m really proud of the fact that I got that done, and I’ve left it in the kind of shape that it’s ready to be taken over by the next person,” Jay Huizenga said.