Ed Bremer, the news and public affairs director of KSER, has been with the independent public radio station since its beginning, 25 years ago.

At 25, Everett’s KSER still entertains, informs community

Most 25-year-olds aren’t into 1930s swing music or rhythm &blues from the 1940s and ’50s. They likely haven’t heard the classic comedy of Abbott and Costello. Many that age aren’t keenly interested in Snohomish County issues.

One local 25-year-old is a go-to source for all of that and more.

The Everett-based independent public radio station KSER celebrated its 25th birthday last month. It was Feb. 9, 1991, when listeners first tuned in to 90.7-FM.

Ed Bremer, now KSER’s news and public affairs director, has been there from the start. Bremer is the soul of KSER. His “Sound Living” program, which airs weekday afternoons at 4 p.m., features in-depth conversations with local news makers.

“I’ll know it’s time to retire when I come in and they’ve changed the locks,” Bremer, 64, said at the station Friday. “Every day is different.”

He was hired in 1990, the year before KSER was on the air, by the Jack Straw Foundation. Originally, KSER was licensed to the nonprofit foundation, which long ago started listener-supported KRAB-FM.

The Jack Straw Foundation ran KSER until 1994, when the nonprofit KSER Foundation was created to run the station. KSER once operated from a studio on Highway 99 in Lynnwood, sharing strip-mall space with a state liquor store and the Bat Rack Tavern. Bremer feels the move to Everett in 2005 brought KSER closer to the community.

It’s a hopping place with a clubhouse atmosphere, and all the busier during KSER’s spring membership drive. This season’s fundraiser lasts through Thursday. In the studio at 2623 Wetmore Ave., where shelves are jammed floor-to-ceiling with CDs, volunteers were answering phones and logging donation information Friday morning.

“I’m retired and can’t give a lot of money, so I give my time,” said Bobbi Mastri, 77, who was helping with the pledge drive.

In the glassed-in broadcast booth, “DJ Kitty” — her real name is Rebecca Staffel — played an eclectic mix of tunes during Friday morning’s “Sunlit Room,” a weekday music program with rotating hosts. All of KSER’s disc jockeys, and even music director Tracy Myers, are volunteers. Some have had weekly music shows for more than 20 years.

The station has more than 100 volunteers, but just four paid employees, two of them full-time.

It all takes money. Unlike commercial-free stations supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio or a university, KSER is independent.

“It’s very rare. And it’s a juggling act,” said Tom Clendening, KSER’s general manager since 2012. “We have a mission to serve the community with news, public affairs and music that don’t often get any airtime. It’s exciting, rewarding and always a challenge.”

The station’s annual budget is less than $400,000, Clendening said. The station is lucky to raise $50,000 during each of its three annual pledge drives. Clendening said about 65 percent of KSER’s budget comes from listeners through pledge drives, with the rest coming from “Business Believers” and grants.

Most impressive is the commitment of KSER’s longtime on-air personalities. They work unpaid, week after week, year after year. Staffel said she spends two hours preparing her play list for a three-hour stint on “The Sunlit Room.”

“I think I’m the only one who plays obscure French music,” she said.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said DJ Ron Taffi, who recently took over the Saturday “Juke Joint” show.

A week ago, Jeff Hoffman ended a 22-year run as the host of “Dusties,” which had him devoting every Saturday afternoon to KSER. Clancy Dunnigan, host of the Thursday night music show “Clancy’s Bar &Grill,” has been at it 23 years.

Some have stepped away from their regular radio gigs, but still fill in on occasion. After a decade of hosting “Pull the String,” Van Ramsey ended his Saturday music program some time back — but his photo still hangs in the KSER clubhouse.

Listener favorites come and go. New talent is trained through KSER’s basic broadcasting classes, offered several times a year.

“The whole place is fun,” Clendening said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Volunteers Dave Hale (left), Bobbi Mastri, Rebecca Staffel and Steve Aagard are just a few KSER helpers stopping by the station Friday to answer phones, do shows, read, listen, talk, or any number of things to help raise funds during KSER’s 25th anniversary pledge drive going on through March 17.

General Manager Tom Clendening starts up the very tricky stairway at KSER on Friday.

Volunteer Bobbi Mastri takes a call regarding the pledge drive. She has been answering the phone and taking pledges for three years, now, she said. “I can’t give a lot of money, but I can answer phones,” she said.

Ron Taffi drops by the studio to help out answering phone calls and taking pledges, or otherwise liven the place up during KSER’s pledge drive, Friday. Taffi does the Saturday show, “The Juke Joint,” as well.

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