New WBTN general manager focuses on community
BENNINGTON — Whether or not it was something he had in his five-year plan, Aaron Sawyer has stepped up as general manager of the local, non-profit radio station, WBTN-AM 1370. When Sawyer started at the station in 2011, he worked as a production engineer and program logger, then went on to hosting the Noon News five days a week the next year.
He now oversees all major operations including accounts payable/receivable, donations, media, updating the website, monitoring the building's physical appearance and laying out each day's program the day before.
"I'm not sure there was something that I've always wanted to do, which is why I only have the little schooling I do because I didn't want to spend the money and get stuck with something I wasn't happy with," he said.
Sawyer was young when he landed in Bennington and learned about the Coalition for the Homeless due to his lack of an actual home. When he finally sought help, he was asked to become a board member.
"I was young before I got involved," he said. "I saw the lack of things to do [in the area] and when I put in more volunteer time, it opened me up to the pulse of the community."
Sawyer enjoys being active during his days and gets more leniency with the new position.
"I like to be the one to be asked things," he happily claimed. "I like the new sense of responsibility. It's like renting or buying a home where you put work into a house you own and receive a sense of fulfillment, but with an apartment, you don't get that. I now feel like my work leaves an impact."
Instead of locating and training an outsider for the new position, Sawyer approached the Board of Directors. Most already know him while he already knows the programs and systems that are run. He will also continue to run Noon News until another host can be found.
WBTN mostly runs on donations and volunteers, which are factors that can potentially be unaccountable. If a show host isn't present for his or her slot, Sawyer said the station either repeats a past show or has prerecorded general topic shows to fill it. The station also has an intern from Southern Vermont College (SVC) joining next week who will act as a grant writer.
"Our strength is through the members of the community," Sawyer said. "I like the impact the station has had already and what it will continue to have in a town where small businesses are dropping. It's uplifting."
At Town Meeting day in March 2015, a ballot article for the station was voted down by 40 votes out of 11,000, however the station still received $13,000 in donations in a two week period out of the desired $75,000.
While WBTN is a non-profit organization, it was for-profit until the mid-1990s and then gifted to SVC, which later sold it to Shires Media Partnership. Shires is the current owner and just celebrated the station's 63rd anniversary.
"I would tell listeners to stay tuned because there are new shows coming in the future," Sawyer said. "I'm excited for what's to come. The past few months have shown me that the people in this town are ready to reclaim their community; we can help them by helping to facilitate their voice."
Tune into www.wbtnam.org to listen to news and shows from community members.
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