After four years of operating without an executive director, KOTO community radio hired a new executive director earlier this month. Cara Pallone, who has served as the station’s news director since 2013, was named to the position with unanimous support from the search committee, board and staff.
“It felt like the right time to step up,” Pallone said. “While it will certainly be a new challenge, I have KOTO’s best interests at heart, and it’s an opportunity to grow with an organization that I love and respect.”
KOTO development director Geoff Hanson, who has been fundraising, writing grants and planning events for the past four years, is moving to North Carolina next month.
“We’re getting rid of my position, and it’s being replaced by an executive director; Cara, who will take over the fundraising part of my job and also handle the organization’s administrative responsibilities,” Hanson explained. “The current notion is to farm out the events planning.”
Mark Izard, who’s been the president of the San Miguel Educational Fund — the governing board of the station — since 2017, said the board has been trying to achieve stable financial footing so it could justify hiring an executive director.
“Over the last couple of years our finances have gotten better and better and we felt comfortable that we could put someone in the new position and pay them a good wage,” Izard said. “We’re confident that this is going to be a new era of KOTO, and having Cara at the helm, we’re going to be in great shape.
Hanson believes Pallone is qualified to lead the station because she’s “incredibly intelligent” and knows KOTO “inside and out.”
“She gets it. She’s a part of it. And she’s been a huge pull to the community,” he added.
Hanson remembers when he approached Telluride Town Council to ask for money and mentioned the KOTO news team.
“And they just broke out into applause,” Hanson said. “That’s the kind of support and respect that Cara has in the community, so she’s the right person for the job and she’s going to take KOTO to the next level.”
Since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Pallone has worked as a reporter, columnist and editor.
“I’ll miss telling people’s stories,” she said. “Anytime someone trusted me to tell their story — trusted that I would get it right — it was the best day of my career. I have had so many best days. But now, I get to tell the story of KOTO in a broader context.”
She added that her past journalism experience lends itself to the executive director role because the pace of the news and meeting a daily deadline requires extensive planning and organization. She has a strong work ethic and enjoys people, too.
“Plus, I’m not afraid to ask questions,” she added.
Izard said that Pallone has been an excellent employee who’s been willing to take on additional responsibilities.
“We’re really going to miss Cara as news director because she brought the station a lot more acclaim and awards that we’d never had before,” Izard said. “Her first job is going to be a tough one: To fill her old position.”
KOTO is currently in the process of hiring a full-time news director. Reporter Julia Caulfield will fill in during the interim, and the 6 p.m. news will continue to air during this transition.
Pallone pointed out that KOTO is authentic and funky and imperfect and perfect all at the same time.
“We are a community hub that people turn to for everything; lost dogs, lost wallets, news, emergency information, music, a friend,” Pallone explained. “We have a dedicated, hardworking staff and a community of DJs who are the heart and voice of this longstanding, treasured institution. With these core pieces in place, we can’t go wrong.”
As one of the few remaining non-commercial, non-underwritten radio stations in the country, KOTO must constantly be creative in the ways it raises money.
“During a time when public radio stations face an uncertain future, we need to continue to seek new and enduring revenue sources,” Pallone said.
While Pallone doesn’t officially step into her new role until Sept. 9, she will co-host Guest Deejay Day with Hanson (aka Al Dean) all day Friday, launching KOTO’s 2019 summer fundraising drive. A $50 donation gets a new KOTO hat, while a $100 donation gets a T-shirt and a hat. KOTO is retiring the Grateful Dead design so Hanson encourages folks to grab one while they last.
“We’re not doing a whole slate of guests DJs, rather just friends of KOTO,” Hanson explained. “Come on by on Friday and tell us what you find special about the station.”
“Please donate to KOTO!” Pallone added. “And feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.”