People of Northwest Public Radio
Kerry Swanson, Northwest Public Radio’s station manager, is a veteran of three decades in radio. His experience includes management, programming, fundraising, new media, building community connections, and planning new broadcast facilities. He shaped public broadcasting through leadership roles on the boards of the Integrated Media Association, Western States Public Radio, University Station Alliance & the Northwest News Network.
His early career includes working in commercial radio at KXLE in Ellensburg, and at KNBQ in Tacoma. Kerry's public radio experience started at KPLU in Seattle/Tacoma. During more than 20 years at KPLU, he held several positions including: On-Air Jazz Host, Operations Manager, Development Director, COO and G.M. His accomplishments include leading some early development and vision of online and new-media applications for public broadcasting, developing new broadcast facilities, establishing new stations and launching Jazz24.org.
Next, Kerry went to Atlanta where he was Director and Manager of the NPR & Classical radio station WABE-FM. After enjoying southern living, he and his family decided to come back “home” to the Pacific Northwest and to Northwest Public Radio. As Station Manager, he directs and manages the 18 station and 13 translator NPR News and Classical music networks serving audiences in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia.
Thom Kokenge is a Washington native, born and raised in Yakima, and the youngest of seven siblings. A graduate of Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Thom got his start in radio there, with KCAT and KXLE, fulfilling a lifelong dream of being on the air. Since he was a kid, he had always wanted to be “one of those voices on the radio.” And even when employed in other areas, he has always managed to work part time or volunteer at a radio station, just for the fun of it.
With close to a quarter-century’s worth of experience, Thom has worked in almost every aspect of radio. He has been with NWPR since June of 2007, when he began as the host of Weekend Edition before moving over to All Things Considered. These days his favorite part about working in radio is connecting with the people. Thom says he loves it when he feels like he is having a personal conversation with all of his listeners at once.
Thom and his wife, Elise, moved to Moscow, Idaho a little over four years ago. They have two dogs-- Dazey, an “extremely intelligent” Boston Terrier/miniature Schnauser mix, and Rhoadie, a lovable mutt, who is merely "regular dog intelligent." An avid motorcycle enthusiast, Thom rides his Kawasaki sport tourer to work every day until it begins to snow, and recently Elise got a bike of her own. He enjoys playing on his co-ed softball team. Despite being “absolutely terrible,” they apparently still manage to have an awfully good time, which, according to Thom, is all that really matters.
Dan Maher originally fell in love with folk music as a teenager growing up in Spokane. A celebrated musician, he actually began his career in music during his college years at Washington State University, performing covers of the Eagles and Neil Young in venues around the area. His love for folk eventually led to his involvement with public radio as the host of what has come to be the weekly three-hour folk music radio show, Inland Folk, which is approaching its 31st year on the air. He is his own producer, editor and engineer for the show.
Having collected over three decades worth of folk music, Dan now eagerly makes the transition to the digital age. He likes the change to digital mainly because it makes it easier to share music, but has to admit that all those years of hauling music back and forth from home for the show has played its part in convincing him. As a student who recently helped him move about five thousand of his old vinyls said, “Nothing musical has a right to be this heavy anymore.”
Dan also works full-time for the office of Student Involvement and Leadership Development at WSU, coordinating student and organizational development programs, and is an advisor on multiple committees for ASWSU. In his free time he is an avid baseball fan, and loves listening to Vin Scully’s broadcasts of Dodgers games. Over the years Dan has generously volunteered his time during fund drives as well as offering free concerts in return for public support for both Spokane Public Radio and Northwest Public Radio.
Growing up in the Tacoma-Puyallup area, Sueann Ramella remembers being a precocious young reporter for her school paper. A big fan of shows like 60 Minutes and 20-20, she dreamed of one day being a hard-hitting journalist, uncovering scandals and exposing the hidden truth. She attended Washington State University, studying journalism. It was there that she discovered her love of radio. Sueann began working for Northwest Public Radio in 1997 after her sophomore year, and has been with us ever since.
In 2000 she became the host of All Things Considered, and then in 2008 switched to hosting Morning Edition. Even after a few years, she still has trouble getting up so early. After she shuts off her alarm in the morning, she lies there trying to think of something to tempt herself enough to get up. It’s usually coffee or cereal. On the really tough days she thinks of cookies.
Sueann has more hobbies than she has time to indulge. She enjoys creating things, whether sewing, knitting, baking or drawing, and recently she has been trying her hand at hobby farming, dabbling in the challenge of self-sufficiency on a few acres behind her home. She raises chickens and grows more than a dozen different vegetables, all in Burberry-plaid boots of which she is inexplicably proud. Who says you can’t farm in style?
John Paxson is the news director for Murrow Public Media and Northwest Public Radio and Television. John’s job entails producing The Murrow Interviews and overseeing the news operations of the radio and television systems. He is working to increase the amount of regional news and current affairs coverage on NWPR and is also developing a training program for young radio journalists.
John was born and raised in Montana, and graduated from University of Montana in Missoula with a degree in journalism. He inherited his interest in journalism from his parents who had a strong interest in current affairs. In college he wrote for the student newspaper and later worked as a disk jockey at a local radio station. He says those early experiences led him to believe it was a natural fit to become a journalist.
John received three Emmy awards for coverage of the death and funeral of Princess Diana and a regional Edward R. Murrow award for coverage of the recession in Arizona. Prior to his move to NWPR, he had worked as a correspondent for the Voice of America and spent 25 years with CBS News, most recently serving as the CBS London bureau chief.
Outside of his job John enjoys traveling the back roads of the West and writing novels, with three so far published. John is married to Lucrezia Cuen, a former correspondent for ABC News. They live in Moscow.
Gillian Coldsnow traces her radio roots back to her early days in Singapore. Shortly after graduation from the National University of Singapore, where she majored in English and Philosophy, Gillian began working for the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation as a classical music host and producer. She started the country’s first classical music magazine program for children. Along the way she picked up several awards including a special commendation from the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union.
Gillian moved to the U.S. in 1987, first to Tillamook on the scenic Oregon coast where she hosted the morning show at KTIL-FM and AM, which had a mix of pop, big band music and news with a very strong focus on community. In 1993, she moved to Pullman to become Northwest Public Radio’s classical music host in the afternoon. In 1997, she became the Operations and Traffic Manager, then hosted Morning Edition for eight and a half years before taking her current position in 2008.
She says it is a joy to provide exceptional programming for NWPR’s listeners, and believes public radio employees go to work with a strong sense of mission. “We are paid for our minds,” she likes to say, “but we give our hearts for free.” Gillian’s other joys come from spending time with her three children, going to the opera, cooking, travel and raising sheep on her farm.