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Somerville New Chief

Tom Cox Resigns from KFMB

Tom Cox, Chief Engineer of KFMB-AM/FM is leaving to become Vice-President of Engineering and Management Information Services for Pacific Star, the west coast division of Capstar. He'll be based in San Diego at the building which houses Mr. A's adjacent to Balboa Park. Mike Somerville, presently a staff engineer, will take over the chief position. 

Tom's broadcast engineering career started in 1980, when he started maintaining a 1kW AM in Georgia where he had been a part-time disk-jockey. He got his chance to play big town radio when he went to work in Atlanta for Susquehana Broadcasting. In 1988, he received a call from a "friend of a friend," Bob Bolinger, GM at KKLQ in San Diego. When Parr was bought in 1994, he moved to KFMB with Bob Bolinger and John Rigg. 

They didn't dabble. "The KFMB studios were overdue for some new equipment and maybe some new concepts when I got here. Thanks to the confidence and support of the owners, they gave us the resources to rebuild the studios for both the AM and FM stations. The FM station is now the only station in town to my knowledge which is fully digital from the output of the microphone to the input of the transmitter. I'm pretty proud of that. I think that's pretty cool." 

"A really great technical effort can make the difference between a good radio station and a great radio station, but it can't make a bad radio station a great radio station. I've seen too many really successful radio stations with really, really bad technical facilities, and they seem to get by just fine. That's basically how I sold the upgrade to the people who run this place. I didn't go in and tell them, 'You know, you're really never going to be a winner if you don't do this,' because that's manure. I think that it gives us the ability to hire better talent if we have newer equipment because people don't want to work in a dump if they don't have to. But if someone pays you a million dollars to work in a dump, you work in a dump. 

"I can't stress enough that what we did here was a group effort, involving John Rigg, John Morgan, and, later on, Mike Somerville. It's not a solo effort." 

Said General Manager Tracy Johnson, "Tom is terrific and was more than an engineer to me.  He had the unique ability to see the big picture and offer his technical expertise to make the stations sound great and operate easily and efficiently for the talent.  Tom is unquestionably the best CE I've ever worked with."

Mike's Turn

Mike Somerville started with KFMB two years ago, and he's got a reputation for getting along well with talent. "Yeah, basically I'm clueless, but I got the job because I can do stand-up." 

Sure. In fact, Mike has an EE degree from San Diego State University. He's worked various mixes of DJ and engineer at various San Diego alternative rock stations since the late 1980's, including campus cable station KCR, XETRA, and XHRM "The Flash" where he worked with Steve Sellman. He also spent time doing technical work with Bill Lipis at KCBQ until he left to become CE at a Compass sister station in Arizona. 

In 1995, he took over as Chief at KEZK/KFNS in St. Louis before returning to San Diego and KFMB. 

Mike's funny radio story: The St. Louis FM station shares a community 1000-foot tower and antenna with five other stations. A hole in the common feedline becomes a serious problem when winter rains lead to internal arcing. All stations go off the air due to excessive VSWR. Mike's pager goes off, but he's not the first to get there. He sees a poor fella across the room trying desparately to hold the keep the PLATE button engaged on his transmitter while arcing can be heard overhead. A puddle of molten copper lies below the feedline. 

GM Tracy Johnson says of Mike, "Promoting Mike is a no-brainer.  He has a lot of the same qualities as Tom, and knows the operation extremely well."

Mike takes over officially as Chief Engineer November 21. There are no immediate plans to fill the slot left by his advancement. 
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Edited by Gary Stigall. Updated 15-Nov-98.