(FOX 9) - Fox 9 news anchor Jeff Passolt is retiring from the same place he began his broadcast career.
In 1981, the guy who made a name for himself playing hockey at St. Cloud State landed an internship at channel 9 covering sports. His first report was at Vikings training camp.
“I was a nervous wreck. It must have taken me 15, 20 times to do my first on camera thing,” Passolt recalled.
Despite his shaky start, Jeff Passolt was destined to become a success in broadcast news with his regular-guy persona that resonated with viewers.
“It just went by so fast, but as I’ve told just about everyone from the beginning, I had these opportunities and when I got them I held on tight,” he said.
After channel 9, Passolt found opportunity across town at channel 11.
They paid him a hundred bucks a week to produce a weekend sports show.
He climbed the ranks and eventually became the station’s main sports anchor.
After 12 years at KARE-11, he took the sports job in Denver.
YOU CAN COME BACK HOME
In 1996, three years into that gig, he got a phone call unexpectedly; channel 9 wanted him to return to Minnesota.
Station executives didn’t want him to do sports but become a news anchor.
He and Robyne Robinson were a team for more than a decade.
“He’s a great guy because he really does love his community,” Robinson told Fox 9. “Know that no matter what, Minnesota will always love you and will always respect you for the years that you’ve put in.”
For 23 years, he came into Fox 9 viewers’ homes to tell them what was happening on his home turf.
He covered moments that shocked the world, like the election of Former Pro Wrestler, Jesse Ventura to the office of Minnesota Governor.
There are the events that he will never forget, such as the 35W bridge collapse.
“When it first popped up, it was like oh my God, this can’t be happening,” he recalled.
He was a calming voice during troubling times and reminded co-workers, with humor, that there was plenty right in the world too.
“He’s the same guy on the air that he is off the air. He’s very funny. He’s got that dry wit. He’s got those dad jokes that we all love,” said Jeff’s Co-Anchor, Kelcey Carlson.
“I try to make coming to work fun, look forward to getting in there, what are we going to do today, covering all this serious stuff, but also what kind of moment can happen where we can all just kind of go ha, ha, ha,” Passolt said.
Often, it’s meteorologist Ian Leonard who's the target of a Passolt prank either on or off the air.
“He’s kind of like the weird older brother I never had,” Leonard said.
Once on a hot summer day, Passolt tossed a wad of chewing gum on to the seat of Leonard’s car.
"I get in my car and there's gum all over the seat and it’s smeared on my suit," said Leonard.
So like any little brother, Leonard got even.
“I had taken his car and moved it to the far side of the building and we played the story that his car had been stolen,” Leonard said.
"This is at five minutes to five. We're getting ready to go on the air and do a newscast with my ears just steaming," Passolt remembered.
ON THE RADIO
For years, Jeff’s been a regular on KQRS, with his buddy, Hall of Fame Broadcaster Tom Barnard.
“Jeff and I have been friends since our teen years, playing football together, great time. It’s been great having him on the KQ morning show too. We’ve shared many wonderful times together on and off the air. I think the world of the guy. I wish him nothing but the best in retirement,” Barnard told Fox 9.
Passolt is Fox 9 newsroom's version of Google when it comes to knowing all things Minnesota.
“You don’t replace Jeff, we have to find a new lane to navigate in because he was so unique,” said Fox 9 Anchor, Randy Meier.
The man has a big heart for all who work at Fox 9.
Every Thanksgiving he brought in turkey dinner to share with anyone who had to work the holiday.
“I’d like my legacy to be, ‘I’m just like one of you’. I just happened to get really lucky and I thank all of those people for letting me into their homes all these years,” Passolt concluded.