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Starting over Radio co-host takes promotional road

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Starting Over: Stacey Simms makes career change from DJ to radio promotions

Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

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DAVIDSON Editor’s Note: This story resumes a weekly series, Starting Over. For the next few months, we’ll chronicle the stories of people who have moved to a new chapter in their lives.

Sleep – or lack of it – has been a major theme in the changes in Stacey Simms’ life, which is perhaps fitting for a woman who grew up in the storied village of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

For a decade, Simms was part of the team on “Charlotte’s Morning News” on WBT-AM (1110), a high-profile radio job attached to a daily 3 a.m. wakeup call.

Last summer, Simms had unexpected health problems that sidelined her for a few months and caused her to miss a lot of work. When her contract with WBT expired in September, she continued on the air but had begun considering a career change.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” says Simms, 41. Co-hosting a morning show in a Top 25 market – especially at a heritage station like WBT that dates to the beginning of radio’s commercial age – is one of the best jobs in the industry. Still, she was torn.

“I was happy to be back at work, but 10 years is a lifetime in radio. It was a good time to make a change.”

Much of her restlessness was driven by family concerns. When her two children, Benny, now 8, and Lea, now 11, were young, her early-to-bed routine worked out well. Her husband, Slade Goldstein, is part owner of Rotelli Pizza and Pasta on Pineville Matthews Road. He would work evenings and be with the children during the day; she took the other shift.

But as they got older, she felt like she was missing out on too much kid time. She found herself staying up past her 9:30 p.m. bedtime to spend time with them.

“Some of the best conversations with my daughter came at 9:30 at night when I should have been asleep. ... They don’t need me every second, but they’re only going to be around a few more years.”

By November, she decided to put the microphone away for a while. She stayed on the show into December, then left.

Looking for a change

Simms had built many contacts through her years in radio and at WBTV (Channel 3), where she worked as a fill-in anchor and health reporter for three years before that. She planned to ask around widely and parlay her experience into something new that fit better into her life, but she wasn’t quite sure what that would be.

In the meantime, she threw herself into civic activities. She was chairwoman for the three Family Walk fundraisers in April for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which she has been active in since her son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 23 months.

She blogged about diabetes and served as president of the Parent Teacher Organization for the religious school at Temple Kol Tikvah in Davidson. There were conversations with others about possible positions, but nothing quite fit.

In March, she began to get anxious about her future. By then, she was running out of closets and drawers to clean out.

“I started to have these ‘What-have-I-done?’ moments,” Simms says.

She was determined to find something that met three goals: fun, interesting and a good match for her talents.

“I didn’t want to just take something else, the first thing that came along. I can’t say I was really worried because I knew it would work out; but I was getting restless.”

In the end, it wasn’t her contacts or a regimented search that led to her next adventure. It was Facebook.

A different role in radio

Darla Thomas is the program director of WLKO-FM (“The Lake” 102.9), a radio station that shot up in the local ratings after replacing longtime station “Lite” last year. Thomas was looking for someone to be the face and voice of “The Lake,” which is wall-to-wall music.

Thomas saw on Facebook that Simms was leaving WBT. They didn’t know each other, but they are both Syracuse University grads and had a friend in common. They started talking.

In May, Simms took over as the personality doing promotions, commercials, social media and public appearances for the station. It’s a part-time position that leaves time for her volunteer work. “It’s a great match,” says Simms. “I’m interested to see how I balance this. I have a tendency to go overboard.”

This much is known already: Simms gets to sleep in every morning – her alarm is now set for the late hour of 6 a.m.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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