Dennis Worden, a former Hillsdale College employee, began working for Hillsdale’s WCSR as general manager of McKibbin Media Group on Feb. 17.
McKibbin Media Group, founded by Jamie McKibbin in December 2019, started with four former Jackson Radio Works stations and added Hillsdale’s WCSR 99.5 and 92.1 FM in early 2020.
“It’s kind of like coming back home,” Worden said. “And the snow is definitely proof of it.”
McKibbin previously worked for Bruce and Sue Goldsen for 23 years by running the Jackson Radio Works stations, which Goldsen sold to him in December 2019. The Goldsen family owned the stations from 1997 to 2019, who moved back to their home state of Connecticut after living in Michigan for about 30 years.
McKibbin died in a tragic drowning accident in November 2020. His widow, owner Katina McKibbin, who is a schoolteacher in Jackson County, decided to hire a full-time general manager, Goldsen said.
The Goldsens, who had stayed on as consultants for the media group after selling their stations, have been helping to run the stations since McKibbin’s death and are assisting with the transition to new management. They will remain to help the company in a consulting role after the hire, Goldsen said.
Goldsen, who knew Worden when he worked for Michigan International Speedway, said Worden’s familiarity with the local area made him a good candidate for the job.
“We had a fair amount of interest for the position, but the thing that attracted us to Dennis was that he was from this area,” Goldsen said. “Even though he does not have direct radio experience, he has worked with the media for basically all his career, so he understands radio. He understands people.”
Worden said he knew the McKibbins through business connections at MIS. He learned of the opportunity through his sister, who knows the McKibbins.
“It wasn’t because it was just a random job posted online,” he said. “I had some knowledge and that prior relationship with Jamie, which I think was valuable.”
Worden said he grew up in Concord, in neighboring Jackson County, and graduated from Central Michigan University in 1999.
Formerly, he was the sports information director at Hillsdale College from 2002 to 2005.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” Worden said. “I love the college. I got a chance to do a lot with the athlete department and the college itself.”
Worden also worked in NASCAR for almost 16 years.
He started out by working as the public relations manager at the Michigan International Speedway from 2005 to 2011. Most recently, Worden served as a senior director of communications at Darlington Speedway in South Carolina from 2011 to 2020.
“I had a lot of great experiences with NASCAR,” he said. “I worked with every driver you could think of and worked with every race team and had a really great career.”
Back in October, however, NASCAR went through some restructuring because of COVID-19 and had to make some tough layoffs, of which Worden was a part.
“It was hard,” he said. “But when one door closes, another one opens. This gave me the chance to come back home.”
Although this is a new industry for Worden, he said he worked a lot with radio stations while at NASCAR. While he still needs to learn the “ins and outs” of radio, he knows a lot about the industry, he said.
“Part of my job responsibilities at Darlington and MIS was to work with a bunch of different radio groups,” Worden said. “I built a lot of great personal relationships with radio stations at both places.”
Worden said it will be a challenge to replace Jamie McKibbin because he was a local legend and was well-known in both the Jackson and Hillsdale communities.
“There is going to be some initial getting to know people, but the staff is in a great place,” he said. “It has been a great transition to this point.”
Worden had his first day on the job on Feb. 17, and his first day in Hillsdale was on Feb. 18. Worden will work between the Jackson and the Hillsdale studios, Goldsen said.
WCSR Radio Station Manager Bob Flynn, who has been working for the station since 1986, said he is happy with the hiring of Worden.
“He has a vast knowledge of various types of communication skills,” Flynn said.
Flynn said that he thinks that his managerial skills will help with the connection between the Jackson and Hillsdale stations.
“I think he is going to be able to figure out where we can help each other,” Flynn said. “He has already talked about the ways he envisions getting both markets to work together to better both stations.”
Flynn said that though there will be a bit of a learning curve, he thinks he will do great.
“We’re very happy that he has joined our team, and we look forward to working with him,” Flynn said. “We look forward to him helping us achieve a bunch of goals that we have set in the near future.”