After an extensive search, WCCO Radio has hired a new morning host to replace the legendary Dave Lee.
Vineeta Sawkar, a former Emmy-winning TV anchor on KSTP, Channel 5, will start on Jan. 3. Her show, "The Morning News with Vineeta Sawkar," will air weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m.
"It's exciting, overwhelming. I really am honored," said Sawkar. "When you think about the history of this station and the people who've had this role: Dave Lee, a broadcasting legend. No one can replace him. Before that, Boone and Erickson. It's monumental to me, and it doesn't slip past me how big this moment is."
Lee retired in April after 32 years as morning host.
Sawkar said WCCO approached her. The timing was right because she and her husband, Jason Branby, became empty nesters this fall, with their daughter off to university in California and their son already at college in Duluth.
As a 26-year resident of the Twin Cities, Sawkar knows the history and role of the AM radio juggernaut that likes to call itself "the Good Neighbor."
"My husband grew up listening to WCCO in a small town called Starbuck, Minn. It's near Alexandria, by Lake Minnewaska," Sawkar said. "He always told me how they'd gather around the radio waiting to hear school closings."
Sawkar spent nearly 18 years at KSTP as a reporter and weekend and morning anchor. She worked as a video reporter at the Star Tribune and currently serves as University of St. Thomas' director of public relations.
The self-described extrovert and sports fanatic is an ambassador for the Minnesota Wild's "Hockey Is for Me" initiative to attract children of color to the sport, and she plays on a women's hockey team, Mid-Ice Crisis.
"Sports will be part of the show," Sawkar promised. "Everything that we love about Minnesota will be part of the show."
In a statement, Brad Lane, WCCO's brand manager, praised the new hire. "Her rich experience, journalistic integrity and warm personality make her the perfect choice to evolve our station's longstanding tradition of delivering the biggest headlines in the morning while exploring the news and events that matter most to Minnesotans."
WCCO has a recent history of hiring former TV personalities for full-time radio shifts — Cory Hepola for mid-mornings and Jordana Green and Paul Douglas for afternoon drive.
"TV and radio are very different," said Sawkar, who left TV eight years ago. "Radio is even more demanding and challenging because you're driving the show; it's not video driving it."