For more than three decades, executive Mick Anselmo influenced just about every genre in Twin Cities radio, from launching powerhouse sports station KFAN to, most recently, spearheading efforts at WCCO-AM, which remains one of the country's most respected all talkers.

But at his retirement party Tuesday, the emphasis was on country.

Music superstars Kenny Chesney and George Strait were among the big names that contributed personal video messages to Anselmo who started K102, the area's first country-music station. Guests, which included peers who flew in from Miami, Nashville and Austin, Texas, signed a giant oak barrel wishing their friend well as he officially retires next Friday  as head of CBS's three local stations.

"This is the payoff,," said Anselmo, taking a break from greeting well wishers Tuesday at The Pourhouse in downtown Minneapolis. The Country Music Association honored Anselmo in 2005 for his contributions.

Shannon Knoepke, CBS market president in the Rochester/Faribault region, will assume Anselmo's duties, which include running WCCO-AM, KMNB-FM and KZJK-FM.



"I put her in a CBS gene pool," Anselmo said. "I'll be there to help her in any way I can."

Anselmo, who joined CBS in 2008 after a short stint as chief operator for Denny Hecker's Advantage Rent-A-Car, said his immediate plans include trips to Mexico, the Florida Keys and a hunting trip in Arkansas.