WLEX-18 manager retiring in February

Tim Gilbert, the general manager at NBC affiliate WLEX-18 who oversaw the station's rise to No. 1 in local news, is retiring at the end of February.

"I don't want to be someone who stays at the dance too long," said Gilbert, 66. "The station is in terrific shape. The product is solid. The revenue is solid. The bottom line is in good shape."

Gilbert came to the station as director of sales in 2000, shortly after it was purchased by present owner Cordillera Communications. He had previously worked in markets including Fort Wayne, Ind., and Buffalo, N.Y. He became general manager in 2002.

During his time, WLEX wrested the local TV news ratings crown from the once-dominant CBS affiliate WKYT-27.

While WKYT has since narrowed the gap in household ratings and occasionally beats WLEX, the NBC affiliate continues to dominate in advertiser-favored demographics and in the metro area of Lexington and surrounding counties.

"I've done this for a long time, and it just seems to me that I would like to take a little time, not much, and sort of decompress from 37 years in the broadcast business and then sort of look and see what's out there. ... I'm a worker bee. I think I would fail as a man of leisure."

He said he does plan to visit his children more frequently, play golf and even dabble in some old hobbies like songwriting.

In 1967, he co-wrote Incense and Peppermints, which became a No. 1 hit for psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock.

"Hidden someplace in my basement is a gold record," Gilbert said, adding "I do not have world-caliber talent, but I have a tiny bit of talent."

Over 40 years, the song has been worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to Gilbert. Much of it has come from compilation albums like those that feature hot hits from the 1960s. The song was also featured on the soundtrack to the first Austin Powers film.

Gilbert likes to joke that he's a partner of Paul McCartney's because the Beatle bought the rights to the song and issues the royalty checks.

A search for Gilbert's replacement is underway.

■ In other news at WLEX, weekend co-anchor Richard Lom is leaving at the end of the month.

Lom is starting a real estate brokerage business in town that will launch in February. The business will focus on flat-fee listings.

"We might be the right guys at the right place with this particular economy," he said.

Weekend co-anchor Kristen Pflum will anchor the news alone, said News Director Bruce Carter.

Carter added that he took the resources of Lom's position and put them into hiring morning co-anchor Chris Goodman, who started recently.

Also, WLEX weekend sports anchor Justin White was on the air for the last time on Sunday. He's leaving to work at Fox Sports Net Detroit. His replacement, Brent Carney, who recently worked at a station in Johnson City, Tenn., will start on the air on Saturday.

■ ABC affiliate WTVQ-36 has hired veteran Lexington TV news reporter John McGary.

Most recently, McGary had been filling in at WLEX, where he worked before taking a job at the University of Kentucky.

McGary fills a position opened when reporter Megan Skaggs was elevated to the evening female anchor role.

■ The station has also finalized its morning lineup, which was in flux after anchor Tom Kenny was promoted to the evening male anchor role.

The new anchor team is Chris Dietz and Kellie Wilson. Former female anchor Kristi Runyon is now anchoring the noon news and also doing health reporting.

General Manager Chris Aldridge said the move allows Runyon to appear on the early evening newscasts, allowing those time periods to take advantage of her prominence.