Smithem, host of “Talk of the Town”, passes the baton to Somers | News, Sports, Jobs


News Photo by Darby Hinkley Bradley Somers, left, will succeed Nancy Smithem, right, as the new host of WBKB’s ‘Talk of the Town’. Smithem will officially hand over his host’s chair, seen at left, to Somers on the March 30 broadcast.

ALPENA — Almost 36 years ago, “Talk of the Town” was born. Now, longtime host Nancy Smithem is ready to hand over the reins to Alpena native Bradley Somers.

Somers is well-known and well-liked in the community, Smithem said, and he’s been a regular on the show for many years. He is the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena.

Somers said, “I thought, ‘What a great opportunity,’ and ‘How can I fill the shoes of someone who’s literally been in this position and getting to know this community for so long?'”

To top it off, Somers will be Smithem’s last guest.

“We always record the last Wednesday of every month,” Smithem said, explaining why March 30 will be the special day.

She and Somers have been meeting on the last Wednesday of the month for over 10 years. He has been its CEO for nearly a decade.

“But, he used to come before that,” Smithem said.

“When I was the volunteer director,” Somers noted. “I have been back to Alpena for 14 years.”

Smithem started the show as a way to highlight positive programs in the community that are run by non-profit organizations.

“My title is producer, and I’ve been here for…almost 36 years,” Smithem said. “It all started, I was the MDA Telethon rep on air, with Kerwin Kitzman and Jim Spleet for years, and everyone remembers that. And, Randi Richardson had done a community event show here , then she was called to go to work at Central Michigan University on their public campaign.

That’s when Smithem was asked if she’d like to do a new show.

“They said, well, we want you to name it, and I said, well, how about ‘Talk of the Town’? That’s where it all started,” he said. she stated.

Smithem is leaving WBKB, but she will continue to work at a few other jobs she currently has in the meantime. In addition to her “Talk of the Town” gig, she works at Michigan Rehabilitation Services and as a licensed real estate agent.

“And on top of that, I volunteer for so many groups in the community,” she added.

” I love this city. It’s so given to me and my family, it’s my way of giving back,” Smithem said of her volunteering.

She is looking forward to free time.

“Every Wednesday I would come in and tape the show and then it would air on a Sunday, so now I can do things on a Wednesday and not have a set schedule,” she noted. “So I’m pretty excited to do something at lunchtime on a Wednesday and not have to think about it.”

She likes to keep busy, but always finds time for hobbies, like gardening.

“I’m an avid gardener, so absolutely this will give me more time to spend in my garden,” Smithem said.

Looking back on the series, Smithem has fond memories and a sense of accomplishment. She has enjoyed interviewing many influential players in the local community, and she feels the show has provided a valuable service to viewers and guests.

“One of the things that came out of this show that I didn’t expect was the collaboration, the networking,” she recalled. “One time Brad was talking about how they were picking up school supplies, and one of our guests said, ‘Oh my God, someone gave us a whole bunch of crayons. Would you like them? And Brad said “Yeah!”

She added that when she had Huron Humane Society, “somebody at the station almost always adopted the dog or the cat.”

She always has two guests from different local nonprofit organizations, so these people would often chat before or after the taping and form a bond.

“Art in the Loft was here with the library, and they were talking about something, and then they ended up doing a collaboration together,” Smithem said. “For me, that’s the best part.”

Collecting so much information each week has made Smithem a valuable resource for the community. She said that when problems arose, she would often say, “I know who you can call.”

“I said to Brad, ‘You’re going to be amazed at what you’re going to learn,'” Smithem said. “You’re going to get as much out of it, probably more, than you put into it.”

She recalls a few humorous moments over the years, suitable for the blooper.

Once her chair fell completely upside down during the recording, so there she was, wearing a dress, hoping someone would help her up. Another time, a dog and a cat were special guests, and they were supposed to be well behaved, but they got frisky and started chasing each other everywhere, climbing on furniture and on Smithem while she was interviewing a guest.

Somers is a family man, married to Felonie Somers, with two children, Zuri, 5, and Zennon, 3.

Somers is excited about this opportunity and hopes he can continue the wonderful work Smithem has done for this community.

“What can I do to keep the show at the level she’s kept it for so long, and be able to continue to celebrate our community and continue to get to know everyone?” he wondered, but then remembered that he had experience on the show, which would help him a lot. He’s also a very outgoing and friendly person, so that won’t hurt either.

“I’ve been sitting with Nancy for 12 years, we’ve had these conversations, and I think maybe she kind of groomed me for this show before she even thought she was grooming me. for the show,” Somers said.

He’s not afraid of the cameras, but he’s a little nervous about discovering his new role.

He thought about “having the confidence to be able to stand in front of the camera and be able to highlight the wonderful and beautiful things that Alpena does, what makes our community grow, what is the pulse of this community and where is Am I adjusting to that?”

It can’t say enough about Smithem.

“Nancy just made me feel comfortable, just being here for the past 12 years,” Somers said. “It’s something I’m passionate about because it focuses on our whole community…For me, it’s a great professional development opportunity to sit down one-on-one or with an organization and to be able to have these conversations, and let people know what’s going on.

“He first said to me, ‘Nancy, it’s such an honor!’ And I thought, “Is this?” Smithem said. “But I thought about it, and what an honor it’s been for me. It’s going to be very hard for me when I leave here the last time.

She said one of her regular guests brought her a present last week and it brought tears to her eyes.

“It’s such an honor,” Smithem said. “WBKB has been my family for 35 years. Whatever you go through in life, they’ve been there supporting me for 35 years.

The Alpena community is also his family.

“I’ve met so many great people from all walks of life that, looking back… Wow! Most people wouldn’t have the chance to do that in their lifetime,” Smithem said.

“And that’s exciting,” Somers said. “I love family growth, whether it’s my immediate family or within the community, and getting to know people is one of my passions. It’s a great opportunity to do that. To keep in mind that Nancy got it, and keep going.

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