From disc jockey to weatherman to the most recognizable personality in an area as big as a state. That has been the journey of Tom Messner, who will retire at the end of November.
A native of Rochester, he came to WPTZ, Channel 5, in Plattsburgh as a meteorologist in 1990, having completed his education at colleges in Ohio, New York and Mississippi and spent some time as a radio DJ.
Before Messner's generation of meteorologists, local TV weather forecasts were mostly read by broadcast specialists – not weather specialists.
Area viewers would watch broadcast professionals dress up in an Atlantic gas station shirt and overalls and talk about high-pressure systems they probably knew little more about than most of their viewers.
With the arrival of Messner, North Country forecasting took on a far more sophisticated, understandable and reliable character.
He was an expert, educated in the science of weather forecasting, and immediately gave Channel 5 audiences the kind of information they needed to plan their next few days.
But, more than that, he gave them a guy they could watch and feel as if they knew, as if he lived in the home in which he was now being seen and heard. Weather forecasting had become a science to be trusted, and who wouldn't trust a smiling, communicative and relaxed Tom Messner?
Soon, he was offering his 5-minute TV forecasts from big events in the region – county fairs, music festivals, community celebrations and the like.
He seemed as comfortable interviewing a musician as alerting us to ominous meteorological abnormalities. Often, he did the two back to back, or even at the same time. His is a rare talent.
TV personalities usually start in a small market and move up as soon as opportunities present themselves. Fortunately for Northern New York – and eventually Vermont and New Hampshire, as the station grew and moved its headquarters out of Plattsburgh – Messner was happy to call this region home.
He had married a fellow WPTZ newscaster, the former Kate Shirmer, and he and the newscaster-turned-teacher-turned-author had two children.
Messner has had reports carried on NBC's "Today Show," "Live with Regis & Kelly," the Weather Channel and MSNBC. His professionalism reflected well on the North Country.
He has spoken at innumerable meetings of organizations and, in his 31 years with the station, now called on the air NBC5, has undoubtedly earned the status as the region's most recognizable local celebrity.
According to the station's bio of Messner, “Through the years, Tom has worked with the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, American Red Cross, United Way, Ronald McDonald House, American Heart Association, Share with a Hungry Neighbor, D.A.R.E, Make-a-Wish and the Alzheimer's Association.”
Tom Messner had the talent, brains, expertise and personality to work in any area of the country. The North Country was fortunate to call him its own for the past 31 years.
We all look forward to getting to know his successor, whether it's someone already with the station or an outsider. Whoever it is, those shoes are going to take some time to lace up.