Each week, we offer an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, Melissa Merli chats with 62-year-old Danville resident Bill Pickett, who has covered Vermilion County news for 45 years. He is the news director for Neuhoff Media radio stations WDNL, WDAN and K-Rock in Danville.
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
I typically get up at 4 a.m., and once I leave home, I head to the public safety building to read the police log before my first newscast.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or accomplishment?
Other than my family, I guess I would have to say being able to have the relations I have had with a lot of community or county leaders over the years. There have been numerous times when I had to keep information confidential until it was the proper time to release a story. And I have found over the years that if you work with people and keep your word, it helps you get more stories later on. A good example of something I had to keep confidential is the recent announcement that Culver's is coming to Danville. I sat on the story until the partners told me they had closed the deal on securing the building.
What do you regard as your most treasured possession?
My family. My wife, Cheryl, and my two sons, Bill and Bob, have spent an awful lot of time at home alone over the years as I attended night meetings. As I look back now, I realize we did a lot of things together, but there have been weeks where I have worked way too much.
Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?
I guess that would be chocolate. I eat way too much of it, but I read somewhere that chocolate is good for you. Right?
What book are you reading now? What is your favorite book ever?
I'm not much of a book reader. So I'll pass that question. My wife is constantly reading, though.
Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?
Right now, I'm dying to go to Biloxi, Miss. One of my two grandsons who are serving in the U.S. Air Force is stationed at Biloxi. So I'm hoping to see him soon. Someday, I would love to travel back to Banff, Alberta, Canada. I went there as a teenager, and it was absolutely gorgeous.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
Well, I've had a lot of dogs and a few other pets over the years. One of my favorites has to be Harley, our current dog. He is a Yorkie and is very cool. For example, he sleeps at the foot of my bed, and when I get up to go to work, he just keeps on snoring until the instant I start putting my shoes on. Then he jumps up and is ready to go outside. He loves to be outside and particularly likes having the wind blow in his face.
What's your favorite sports team?
Well, years ago, I was a diehard Cubs fan. But somewhere along the way, I lost track of them. I really don't have a favorite team now.
What would you order for your last meal?
I would say some of my wife's chicken and noodles, with biscuits, mashed potatoes and maybe cherry pie.
If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?
I haven't really thought about it much. But maybe a dog. Just look at them. They lie around all day, get plenty of food and water and don't have to pay any bills. All they have to do is wag their tail and maybe lick their master's face once in a while. Yuck! Well, maybe I wouldn't want to be a dog, either. I'm not sure.
Who are your favorite musicians and why?
The Beatles. I was in junior high school when the Beatles invaded the United States. I just like their music. Well, most of it anyway.
What's the happiest memory of your life?
I really can't pinpoint just one. I would have to say there are three. First, when I married. Then when my two sons were born. I'm sure many people would probably answer that question the same ... getting married and having kids.
Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?
I guess Abraham Lincoln. I like the fact that he was from Illinois and that there are Lincoln historic sites right here in Danville.
What's your best piece of advice?
Take time to enjoy your family but also try to find a career that you enjoy. And then do a better job than I have done trying to balance the two.
What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?
I guess my first job was being a newspaper carrier. Later, I worked for Jerry Watson for years pumping gas at his Shell gas stations before I finally landed the job at WITY. I can't remember how much I made at any of those jobs. But those days were a lot different than today.
What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?
There have been several in my career, but one stands out. I got a phone call one afternoon from Springfield. A top government official's press aide was retiring, and I was being offered the chance to take that job. The person offering me the job would later become governor of Illinois. My wife wanted me to take the job, but the next day, I turned it down. At the time, I was assistant chief on the Westville Fire Department and president of the Westville Music Parents' Organization. But it was not the fact that I was heavily involved in the community that convinced me to stay. It was the fact that I had two sons attending Westville High School at the time. And I don't want them to feel any guilt, but I just could not uproot them and move to Springfield. I thought of how I would feel if I were in high school and uprooted to move to some strange community. Now, I realize the kids could have gotten over it.
Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?
Well, I think I have already answered that above. While I later regretted — at times — not taking that job in Springfield. I also realize that at the time it was the right thing to do.
How do you handle a stressful situation?
Step away from it. There are times when I am working on a news story (writing it or dubbing off sound bites) and something goes wrong. Maybe I can't think of the right word or simply do not like the way the story is written. I have found that if I get up and walk away from it for a minute or two then come back, it usually solves the problem.