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Longtime WMT-AM Program Director Randy Lee retiring after 46-year career in radio
Lee has been the WMT-AM program director for 32 years
After 46 years in radio, WMT-AM Program Director Randy Lee, who retired on Monday, was praised on air by morning show host Doug Wagner during one of Lee’s last moments on air last Wednesday morning.
“I’ve not met a single person in my life who has made me feel more like my father is in the room with me more than you,” Wagner said on air, holding back tears. “You are a great man and you will be missed. Working for you is one of the greatest things that could’ve happened to me in my lifetime.”
For Lee, being on the air at that moment, he realized his decadeslong career in radio would be coming to an end after Wagner said Lee would only be his boss for a few more days.
“That is really starting to sink in right now,” Lee said.
Lee, 65, whose real name is Dwayne Ackman, began his career at the now-defunct student radio station at Coe College, KCOE, in 1975.
“It actually goes back to my very first commercial radio job,” Lee, the Cedar Rapids native and Jefferson High School graduate, said of why he picked the name Randy Lee. “It’s just a name they gave me. I had a choice of three and I picked that one and just kept it. It was a really popular thing to do in the mid-70s.”
Lee has spent the majority of his career at the AM 600 WMT station, serving as the station’s program director since 1989.
His career has included coverage of the 2008 floods and Parkersburg tornado, last year’s derecho and now a pandemic, as well as everything else in between.
“It’s been a huge commitment in this role,” Lee said. “You don’t know where the news is going to break or what weather will happen. It’s one of those things you can plan all you want, but the events take over and create the stories.”
His career also included nine years at 1600 KCRG and shorter stints at 800 KXIC in Iowa City and 1450 KLWW in Cedar Rapids.
Lee said what got him into the radio business was his love of popular music of the day, like The Eagles.
“Then, you get into radio and can do so many other things,” he said. “You’re providing information, you can entertain. I like that combination. The goal is to connect with people one-on-one in a mass medium and I think making those connections with people is really the coolest thing.”
He also has seen the industry change immensely since the days of vinyl records being the mainstream in radio, to modern, digital streaming.
“Back in the day, WMT had competitions for how far away someone could listen to the station, but now you can listen around the world,” he said. “It’s amazing to me the light years ahead in technology that has happened so far.”
Lee said when he told KCRG weather forecaster Joe Winters that he was retiring, Winters joked about Lee’s work ethic during bad weather.
“He said ‘When the sirens go off, you realize you will have to stay home in the basement and not go into work?’” Lee laughed.
Wagner further explained his on-air comments about Lee reminding him of his own father. Wagner and Lee were once next-door neighbors as well.
“Lee can say ‘Let’s bring it back down and start from scratch if something goes wrong,’ ” Wagner said. “Since my father passed, I’ve looked at Randy as a father figure. He’s such a kind individual.”
When reflecting on what he will miss the most about working at WMT, Lee said the people: his co-workers, as well as the station’s listeners.
“I personally thank all the listeners for really embracing WMT as they still do,” he said. “I’ve worked with amazing people and I appreciate everyone that’s helped me along the way, giving me opportunities to do things here and for guiding me and being patient with me.”
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