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Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Salutes Steve Brown

He spent virtually his entire career with one local radio broadcasting company

Broadcast engineer Steve Brown will be inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame.

Steve Brown

Michelle Vetterkind is president/CEO of the WBA, a state association that knows how to celebrate broadcast engineering. In the announcement she described Steve as a career engineer with a reputation for giving back and thinking of the future.

He’s also part of an increasingly rare breed, an engineer who has spent virtually his entire career with one local radio broadcasting company. He began as an announcer/engineer with Woodward stations WAPL(AM/FM) in the 1970s and soon was named assistant chief and then chief engineer before being named director of engineering in 1985. 

He held that post until this January.

When I was around 12 years old, I drove my parents crazy by dragging home big old console tube radios and 1950s-era TV sets to experiment with in the basement,” Steve told me.

“At 14 I talked a kind old TV repairman into letting me ‘work’ for a dollar a day, stripping old TV sets for parts and watching his store while he went on service calls. At 16, a friend got me a beginner’s job at a ‘real’ TV repair shop at minimum wage.”

In high school Steve took electronics vocational courses; at 17 another friend got him into a starter job at WAPL operating the board for baseball games and DJing the weekend overnight hours. 

“Eventually I worked almost every job in what was then a very small radio station, working my way through college that way. The day after I graduated, I was offered a combination job as relief DJ and assistant to the chief engineer. And the hook was set.”

Over the years Steve earned a master of science degree in engineering management from the Milwaukee School of Engineering, as well as a bachelor’s degree in economics and an associate’s degree in science. 

He retired from Woodward Community Media this January, but still consults to the company.

A bio from the WBA described him as “a broadcast engineer who’s focused on giving back to his industry, cultivating relationships, and building a future for broadcasting on a local, state, and national level. … Known as an ‘engineer’s engineer,’ Brown earned a reputation for being able to interact with all personality types and explain engineering issues in practical and relatable terms.”

He helped launch the Fox Valley chapter for the Society of Broadcast Engineers and has served in many roles for the society since 1982. He has been a Chapter Engineer of the Year, served on the national board for two terms and was elevated to SBE Fellow in 2023. 

Woodward Radio Group General Manager Kelly Radandt said of him then that Steve “is able to interact with all personality types. From sales to programming, he is able to describe the why in very relatable terms and consistently demonstrates patience with people.”

Brown also has worked with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to develop a youth apprenticeship pathway for media broadcast technicians, to train high school students in broadcast engineering.

At its Hall of Fame event in June, WBA will also induct Matt Lepay, Patty Loew and Dave Robinson. Congrats to them as well. 

But when broadcast groups and associations make the effort to recognize broadcast engineers, I celebrate. So well done, WBA, and well done, Steve Brown. Thanks for all you do for our industry.

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