Someone You Should Know: Voice of Mitchell

Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 4:48 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - J.P. Skelly has been a familiar voice on the radio in the Mitchell area for close to four decades. The career for this Long Island, New York, native didn’t begin in front of the mic.

“In my previous life, I was a consultant geologist in the last oil boom in North Dakota, back in the late ‘70s to the mid-’80s,” said Skelly.

That oil boom went bust. And J.P. took a different path.

“I’d always wanted to be in broadcasting. I was living in Billings, Montana, at the time. There was a broadcasting school there — May School of Broadcasting. So I figured, ‘What the heck. It’s my opportunity to do it,’” said Skelly.

In January of 1986, he took a job at KORN Radio in Mitchell.

“As I joke with people, KORN was supposed to be a two-year stop on my rise to fame and fortune. After thirty-seven years, it’s the fame I’ve found. But it’s the fortune that eludes, which is the case in most small market broadcasting. But I got to like the community, and there was plenty of opportunity here for broadcast adventure, so I decided to stay,” said Skelly.

And he’s spent most of those years as the station’s news director, with countless memories.

“In 1992, I had the chance to cover President George H. Bush’s campaign trip to a farm near Humboldt. But what was surreal about the whole thing, I remember standing up on the area that we had for the news media and looking down a gravel road, and here comes the Presidential limousine. That was surreal,” said Skelly.

There were the tough stories, too, like the Spencer tornado 25 years ago.

“I remember talking to a volunteer firefighter who came out to get his pickup. I looked at him and said, ‘How bad is it?’ and he looked at me and said, ‘It’s gone,’” said Skelly.

For a generation of listeners, J.P. is often one of the first voices they’ll hear to start the day.

“Well, I usually get here around 4 a.m., and we prepare for doing the morning show, Mitchell’s morning news, and make sure everything is organized and ready to go. Once we finish at about 8:30 or so, we start news gathering throughout the day,” said Skelly.

“He’s the guy that knows a lot of people, and he knows a lot of things that go on in Mitchell and has a good understanding of what happened in the past and what’s going on. That’s where people can turn to get what they need to know,” said KORN Operations Manager Clint Greenway.

“That started when I was a kid, listening to some of the greatest stations in the world in New York City and always dreaming about the day that hopefully I want to do this, I really do,” said Skelly.

And the 67-year-old says there are still a lot of stories to tell over the KORN airwaves.

“Maybe a couple of more years. It depends on my wife and when she decides she wants to retire. And also, I’m still having fun, and I’m healthy enough. As long as my health is good, and I’m enjoying it, I’ll stay with it,” said Skelly.