When Serah Mead worked as the music director at KZMU, she kept adding projects to her list of duties—bigger projects, like Youth Rock Camp, felt inspiring to her. She had worked in nonprofits for her entire career, and thinking about KZMU’s role in the community felt natural to her, even as the music director.
When Marty Durlin stepped down from the station manager/executive director role in 2018, she encouraged Mead to apply for the position: Mead had been thinking about the long-term goals of the station for a while, and as executive director, she could pursue those goals. Mead started in late 2018, and now, she’s moving on—the station manager/executive director position will be taken over by Barbro Rakos. Mead will take on the project manager role at the National Federation for Community Broadcasters, allowing her to support community radio stations all over the nation.
Mead has seen KZMU through nearly a decade of seismic changes. In 2016, the station was defunded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, forcing staff and listeners to ask the question of KZMU’s viability. When Mead took over as ED, her focus was on making KZMU an essential part of the community—reminding people that the station has been around since 1992, and wants to stay for as long as possible.
“I really made it a priority to get out there as much as possible,” she said. “Whether that was a booth at the Free Concert Series or doing a simulcast from somewhere or covering the election through debates—I wanted to remind people who we are, remind people what a resource we are, and remind people how inclusive we are. We’re here for everybody as much as we can be.”
And it worked: now, KZMU is an institution in the community, meeting its annual fundraising goals (Radiothon is taking place until April 15) and filling its programming with volunteer DJs and shows. Even through the COVID-19 pandemic, the radio station found a way to continue to have volunteer DJs on air.
“I’ve really seen it go through these phases of emergency-batten-down-the-hatches to really flourishing and really having a lot of community partnerships and connections and vibrant programming and a lot of voices on the air,” Mead said. “People say things like, ‘It’s a miracle we have this here.’”
The biggest lesson she learned in the position: always listen.
“I’m always listening to what the community needs, to community feedback, to what our DJs are feeling, to what my staff is prioritizing,” Mead said. “One of the biggest takeaways that I feel will serve me for a long time is having an understanding of how important it is to meet people where they’re at.”
Rakos, who will take over as station manager/executive director, will be able to expand the station’s fundraising and development, Mead said. Rakos has connections to the Moab area and distilled her goals for the position into a few key phrases: community work, rural advocacy, media, and establishing KZMU in the southern Utah region. She’s moving to Moab from Seattle (but previously lived in Salt Lake)—her career has been focused on the film industry and program management.
“I’m thrilled about [Rakos] stepping in,” Mead said. “She and I both share a strong sense of fierce advocacy for self-expression. KZMU is the perfect place for somebody who has that value because it embodies that and provides a lot of challenges along the way.”
Mead said she wants to make sure the community knows how grateful she is, too, as she prepares for this next step both for herself and for the radio station.
“I feel the appreciation, I feel the trust and the support,” she said. “I truly have every single person in the community to thank … it really does take all of these individuals to make my job possible, and to make it a reality for the next person to carry on.”