by Peter Twitchell
Joe Seibert, Chief Engineer of KYUK Public Radio and Television has kept the station operational, on a daily basis, for the past 28 years.
Let’s go back 28 years.
Joe was from College Station Texas, who graduated from Texas A&M and went to work for Texas Instruments, who manufactured Chips that go into gadgets like phones and computers. He also worked at Epcot Center in Orlando for CNN.
Joe shared with me that his mom was a Registered Nurse, in the medical profession, and he was, at one time, interested in becoming a doctor. I believe, Joe was meant to come to Alaska and work at KYUK!
One day he was reading the Trades Magazine and an advertisement out of Bethel caught his eye. It was October and the temperature was 105 degrees and warmer, it was hot!
After 10 minutes after inquiring about the Chief Engineer position opening at KYUK he got a call and was offered the job.
The idea of coming up North and Colder Climate really appealed to Joe at the time. Little did he know he would take up mushing dogs, and he never had a pet dog when he was growing up. He felt it would be a challenge and it has been! to say the least.
One of the challenges of keeping KYUK operational has been the quality of our electricity in Bethel. Sometimes the power was not running up to par or full capacity and “brown outs” occurred frequently taking their toll on KYUK’s station equipment.
The power fluctuations left KYUK station vulnerable to equipment burning out, and it did. I did not realize this myself.
In order to keep old equipment going and KYUK alive, Joe often looked for parts from across the country to replace parts that were no longer in production. I didn’t know, that through the past 28 years KYUK has sustained damages to equipment and lately computers in excess of about $50,000.00, cost to KYUK.
KYUK Station came so close to being shut down about 1998. At the time the general manager position became vacant and a red headed woman from Vermont by the name of Margaret Wood had been hired to fill the General Manager position left at KYUK.
She was fired from the top position at KYUK about a year later and Joe became the Interim General Manager/Chief Engineer, due to a half million dollar debt that needed to be satisfied, owed to Bethel Utilities.
I thought, how precarious! The one Utility responsible for so much damage to electronics equipment could pull the switch on KYUK!
That debt kept Interim-station manager Joe Seibert on the edge of his seat, it seems for an eternity, until past general manager Ron Dougherty was hired. He knew the operation of KYUK radio and television and knew enough to get it out of the red in five years.
Within five years KYUK’s debt was satisfied, but not totally without the help of the Bethel VFW Post 10,041 President Ben Dale who gave KYUK ample time to pay their Bingo Fee, which hadn’t been met, because the station had been struggling to meet their payroll to its employees.
Some of KYUK’s workers took paycuts, or left the station.
Bethel Broadcasting was down to bare bones operation at one time. But through perseverance and positive attitude KYUK is running today, and Joe Seibert who I have considered Chief Engineer Extraordinaire is looking at retirement from the station he grew to love and the people of Bethel and the region he has befriended.
He told me, “if it hadn’t been for Gabe King, taking me in his sled, I would never have known the joy of dog mushing.” And Joe did that for a while until years later it got too expensive to have a dog kennel.
Joe has volunteered and worked with the community of Bethel Youth, and putting some to work so they could be exposed to some of the work that’s involved in keeping KYUK operational 24/7.
I saw with my own eyes since coming back in July 2017, young men splicing wires, helping hook up speakers and equipment at Joe’s care and direction.
Joe worked with community members, such as getting community members licensed to operate their Ham Radios, my wife Millie included.
In my son David’s book, “Joe is a hero, not just when he served our country in the military, but his service to KYUK Radio and Television.”
Joe told me with a smile, “It tears my heart to think about leaving KYUK and Bethel.”
Thanks Joe, you are a true friend, and you will always be in our hearts and Prayers. You did good for us, and all Alaska!