WHTC’s Gary Stevens honored for longevity

For many, Gary Stevens is the voice of Holland. Whether he’s reporting or hosting shows, Stevens is broadcasting on WHTC-AM/FM six hours a day — a Herculean schedule in the industry.

Stevens, who off the air goes by his legal name — Gary Ratski — is marking his 20th anniversary at WHTC this month. On Oct. 6, Holland City Council honored that milestone with a proclamation.

“If you're in one place for a long time, it's either a lack of ambition or a stroke of good fortune, but it was nice to receive the recognition,” says Stevens, who credits his longevity to the support of the station’s general manager, Kevin Oswald, and Brent Alan, former WHTC program director and now general manager for 92.7 The Van.

One significant influence on the Detroit native was the late Ernie Harwell. Stevens’ professional sports life started in 1975 as a junior usher at the now-demolished Tiger Stadium. There, he got to know the legendary "voice of the Tigers." 

Award-winning career

Stevens' tribute to Harwell won the Michigan Association of Broadcasters' 2011 Best in Category for Broadcast Excellence Award, and was one of four such MAB awards he's earned since arriving at WHTC, according to Peg McNichol, the station’s morning news anchor.

He began working professionally in 1980 after graduating from the University of Detroit with a communications degree. He worked at Saginaw's WMAX as program director, which included doing play-by-play for the Lumber Kings hockey team in 1995 and becoming public relations director. From 1998 through 2001, he was program director at Flint’s WFDF.

On Oct. 15, 2001, he joined WHTC as the news director. Since then, his duties expanded to include sports writing, covering the Whitecaps, and, until this year, doing play-by-play for Saugatuck High School football and basketball games on 92.7 The Van.

Stevens, 63, stepped back from sports after 12 years to avoid burnout. He now backs up his successor, Eric Van Swol, when needed. 

“I'm trying not to overextend myself. I'd like to stick around for more years,” he says.

Early riser

Stevens is at the radio station by 4:30 a.m. to prepare for going on air at 5:30. He’s up at 3 a.m. to make time for his morning devotionals. He begins and ends his day studying the Bible. He and his wife, Holly, are members of Celebration Bible Church.

“Creating a program that people will want to listen to is the fun part of this job. Some days are good, some days are bad, but I try to be as transparent as I can,” Stevens says. 

He usually does five to seven interviews per day. They can range from talking to Holland Judge Brad Knoll to state Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein.

His secret to a successful interview? “I just tried to use some common sense and to think, if I'm a listener, what do I want to ask.”

He's been WHTC's morning news show host since 2015 and, in 2019, he took over WHTC's midday show, the iconic and historic “Talk of the Town,” which has been on the air since 1959 and celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2019. Stevens is just the fourth host of the show, carrying forward the legacy of founding host Bill Gargano and longtime host, the late Juke Van Oss, whose goal was to create a lively broadcast with a sense that you're chatting over the fence with a neighbor.

“I enjoy what I do. I've been given God-blessed abilities to be able to talk to people,” says Stevens, who has no plans for retirement. “When I take some time off, after a day or two, I get antsy and it’s time to go back to work. As long as the powers that be here like what I'm doing, I'm happy to stay.”

 

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.