By Brenna Eller
After being the owners of KIKS and KIOL in Iola, Kan., for over 20 years, Tom Norris and his wife Monica wanted to know that their stations would be taken care of. Because of his long history with Ad Astra Radio, Norris knew who Chris Shank, President and Sales Manager of Ad Astra Radio was and has a positive outlook on what is ahead for the future of KIKS and KIOL.
Norris was born and raised in Hutchinson and is a graduate of Buhler High School and Wichita State University. He and Monica have been married for over 30 years and have three kids, Matt, Amanda and Hannah.
“Last year, we became grandparents when little Alice came along,” Norris said.
Norris has worked at radio stations all around Kansas, including Hutchinson, Wichita, Pratt and Iola.
“My radio career began as an unpaid intern in the newsroom at the original KWHK, an AM station at 1260 on the dial,” Norris said. “I always liked journalism, so when I got the chance to do an internship through my high school I was very excited! I guess I hung around and bugged them enough that they broke down gave me a job as an announcer.”
It was there that Norris said he first met current KWHK morning man Rob Mackey.
Then Norris went to work on the air at the original version KSKU, which was at 102.1 FM. Between the time he was at the original versions of KWHK and KSKU, Norris met and worked with many talented people who he said went on to shape Hutchinson radio for decades to come.
“Ad Astra Founder Cliff Shank is at the top of the list,” Norris said. “He was the General Manager at KSKU when I started.”
Norris said he had a great time working at KKRD while attending Wichita State. KKRD was the #1 station in Wichita. He got to work the overnight shift the entire time and then go to class after work.
“I was a day sleeper but it was great!” Norris said.
After he graduated from Wichita State, Norris was called by Cliff Shank and asked to be the Program Director at the new KSKU.
“It was during this time that I met my wife Monica when she started there in sales,” Norris said. “We still laugh that I was **this close** to throwing her resume in the trash! Then, I realized that she was applying for a sales position and not to be a DJ. I gave Cliff the resume, she was hired and the rest is history.”
During his time at Ad Astra, Norris had the joy of helping Kicks 106 sign on for the first time.
In an article published by The Hutchinson News, dated July 16, 1992, Norris was featured along with another on-air announcer of KSKU, Paul Archer. Norris went by the name of Tom Simon back then. The article described the life of a disc jockey from the two announcers and what tasks they had, from news to contests and giveaways.
Norris loved working at Ad Astra, but he ended up leaving for the opportunity to be a station owner, which was a lifelong dream of his.
“Monica and I were very honored to be the owners of KIKS and KIOL in Iola,” Norris said. “We got to work with so many community leaders and meet so many great listeners that we developed a true connection to the community.”
Tom and Monica raised their three children in Iola, but eventually family ties ended up bringing them back to Hutchinson.
“Having known current Ad Astra President Chris Shank for most of his life, we were thrilled to sell our stations to Ad Astra Radio,” Norris said. “After 20+ years of being the caretakers of KIKS & KIOL, we wanted to know that the next owner would take good care of it as well. We’re excited to watch Ad Astra do big things in Iola and Southeast Kansas!”
Norris and his wife are glad that they have the opportunity to continue being a part of the Iola Radio team with Ad Astra.
“Doing the morning show on KIOL and the afternoon show on KIKS gives me a chance to connect with some of our long time listeners in Southeast Kansas,” Norris said. “Thanks, Ad Astra!”
Norris’ favorite music genres are new country and classic hits.
“My two favorite types just happen to be what we play on KIKS & KIOL,” Norris said. “How lucky am I?”