After a lifetime of radio, Kyle Gylsen decided to try something new. He started as the Wadena-Deer Creek Public Schools communications and community education coordinator on July 1.

“I knew I could do radio and I could do it pretty well but it just was more of a challenge to see if I could do something else, and maybe not be on call all the time,” Gylsen said. He worked at the KWAD radio station for 36 years.

Kyle Gylsen announces the 2021 June Jubilee parade on Jefferson Street in Wadena.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Kyle Gylsen announces the 2021 June Jubilee parade on Jefferson Street in Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

You might not have noticed yet, though, as Gylsen is continuing the morning show through the summer or until the station hires another person. The radio and school have long partnered for various events and interviews, and Gylsen hopes to still announce some sports games. He said it’s tough to replace radio hosts, and the station is looking for two people after the retirement of Mike Danvers in May 2021.

“It’s kind of strange to be walking away from it because it’s all I know,” Gylsen said. “I always joke that if I would have been fired … 10 years ago or something I’d have to stand on a street corner and say, ‘Will talk for food’ because I don’t know what else to do.”

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Gylsen first started his radio career at KWAD with an internship in 1984, and two weeks after his graduation from Bemidji State University in 1985 he returned with the thought of “I’ll come back and help out a little bit.” With a position needing filling, he worked Memorial Day weekend and was offered the job on Tuesday. He worked the rest of the summer from midnight to six a.m. on weekdays.

He kept with the morning hours, though from the more acceptable 4-8 a.m. for many years to come. He also worked in the sales department for a few years prior to joining the morning show in 1989.

“Every day was different because every day the news is different. Every day the weather is different. Every day something is different. Even though just like any job you get into a routine, I walk in and make the coffee and then I start gathering news or whatever for the day, but every day was different,” Gylsen said. “And then I just worked with such a great group of people that it made going to work fun.”

KWAD radio guys Brad Williams (left) and Kyle Gylsen keep the listeners up-to-date on the latest funds raised throughout the three-hour program.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
KWAD radio guys Brad Williams (left) and Kyle Gylsen keep the listeners up-to-date on the latest funds raised throughout the three-hour program. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

While being on air often, he loves “the connection between the radio and the listener,” including meeting people at sporting events and building relationships with athletes and students. He enjoyed covering sports, from the WDC volleyball team winning state the year of the tornado to the big surprise moment of Perham basketball player Zach Gabbard visiting the state tournament after collapsing on the court earlier in the season. The relationships have also been a welcoming part to working at WDC as fellow co-workers have offered their support.

One of Gylsen’s best encounters was in the grocery store when a woman told him that she listened to the show every morning. She said, “You’re the only man who’s been in my bedroom since my husband died,” which of course came with a surprised reaction from Gylsen and his wife Jackie.

An entertaining on the air moment included the ‘shooting’ as part of a skit during June Jubilee. The radio was set up outside of Boondocks when a homeless person walked across Hwy 71 and laid down on a bench by the current Now & Forever Wedding Gallery. A police officer told the person they couldn’t be there after previously talking with them about moving. Then bang, blank shots rang out and the officer missed several times, as Gylsen described.

Though the shooting was a prank, at the time the radio employees moved back upstairs and off the air. Gylsen said this is a highlight he won’t ever forget.

As a WDC graduate in 1981, Gylsen said he’s learning where the teacher’s classrooms are in the elementary and middle/high schools, scheduling community education classes and learning just what is included in the job. But he does know that “Dana said the answer is always I’ll try” rather than overcommitting to events. Gylsen has Dana Cantleberry’s position, who worked with the district since 2009 and now works at Bertha-Hewitt Public Schools.

Following his journey with radio, Gylsen said attending WDC is part of how he’s now representing the school.

“High school obviously prepares you somewhat for life and then gave me the opportunity to go to college, gave me the opportunity to go into radio and now it gives me the opportunity to come back to the school,” Gylsen said. “Just hoping that I can do a good job helping spread the message of how special WDC can be.”