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Former radio man makes mid-life career change

Sometimes, even when the economy stinks and your prospects are grim, things have a way of turning out.

That's what happened for former WVLK-AM 590 program director Robert Lindsey, one of the most recognizable voices in Lexington radio.

Last November, Lindsey — who oversaw the stable of talent that included talk radio deejays Jack Pattie, Sue Wylie and David "Kruser" Krusenklaus — was laid off by his employer, Cumulus Media. He had been program director for almost 20 years.

Lindsey, 51, was living the new American nightmare: He was unemployed and no longer young, a person with a mortgage and children, whose skills had just been pronounced superfluous.

"If you never expected it, or even if you think it could happen, becoming unemployed stuns the senses," Lindsey wrote in a first-person piece in the Herald-Leader in January.

But Lindsey had saved enough to support himself through the next few difficult months as he looked for a new job both inside and outside radio.

And the months dragged on. One. Two. Five. Six.

He had moral support. He had friends.

One of those friends, Van Kirk, president of Auto Tech Service and Before You Buy Auto Inspections, told Lindsey not to worry about getting his car serviced. Until he got a new job, Kirk was going to help him out.

Lindsey had been taking his car to Kirk for 10 years; Kirk had been, in fact, a weekend radio personality at Lindsey's station as well as a customer. Says Lindsey: "I never drove away from here without total peace of mind."

Lindsey told Kirk that he was thinking of buying a small business. Kirk's response: "Why don't you just buy mine?"

So in late March, Kirk and Lindsey began talking about Kirk selling his car repair and inspection business to Lindsey. Lindsey is an enthusiastic non-mechanic. He tried changing his car's oil a few times, he says, and when the car rolled on top of him, he took it as a sign to leave such matters to professionals.

But Kirk, 54, who said he didn't start his first business until he was 40, wanted to spend more time working on Kirk Auto Group Inc., a business that concentrates on collision reconstruction, collector car appraisals and expert witness testimony.

And he saw Lindsey as an ace marketer for the auto repair business.

Kirk presented the idea of Lindsey taking over the business to his employees, whom he describes as the backbone of the organization. They approved.

"It's my baby," Kirk said. "I'm not going to give it away to someone who isn't going to take care of it."

Lindsey defines his new job as "a different kind of studio" and professes awe for the garage's professionals. "They're like surgeons," he said. "They talk, and they research, and they discuss. It just blows me away."

Lexington career counselor Carla Ockerman Hunter says that midcareer employees who lose jobs have to ask themselves where they fit into the new job landscape. She suggests they start with the federal Department of Labor Web site — www.dol.gov — which offers a free occupational handbook.

Hunter says people who find new jobs are, like Lindsey, "people who look at the possibilities, rather than the boundaries. They take what has happened to them ... and become very intentional about, 'What are my opportunities?' "

Lindsey says he's waking up earlier these days because he can't wait to get to work.

"You have to know that who you're dealing with is above reproach," he says. "I still very much see it through a customer's eyes."

And the new job is in fact bringing Lindsey back into the radio studio: He'll be appearing with Van Kirk on the radio show Under the Hood from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays. The program is broadcast by Lindsey's old employer, WVLK.

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