by Erick R. Schmidt // Spring 2010
Patty Cahill has lent her voice to the local radio industry for more than two decades, and now she’s sharing it with a much larger audience. Cahill, general manager of UMKC’s National Public Radio affiliate, KCUR 89.3 FM, was appointed to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s (CPB) board of directors by President Barack Obama in August 2009.
Cahill, who teaches communication studies at UMKC, has served as the station’s manager for 22 years and is now the lone representative on the nine-person board with public radio experience. The board governs CPB, sets policy and establishes programming priorities. “I appreciate the opportunity to represent public radio,” Cahill says. “They’re looking at policies way up in the sky, and now they’re able to ask me how it works at the station. When I talk about radio, they listen.”
As a board member, Cahill will travel to meetings from Minnesota to Washington, D.C., throughout the year, through 2014. She has been a part of two meetings so far and has been assigned to the digital media committee. She says she was happy with her assignment and that her role has been fascinating to this point. Her appointment began with a simple call from Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, Cahill says, but became much more complicated with the board’s vetting process.
A representative from the White House called and asked whether she was willing to be audited. The questions got more detailed: They wanted her to provide medical records, income tax records and credit history. From there, it was on to a 45-page application filled with information about herself, her relatives, previous marriages, schools she attended, places she lived and whether she had done anything in the past 20 years that would embarrass the president.
Cahill was eventually cleared and nominated by President Obama. At the end of July, she testified before the U.S. Senate and began serving her six-year term shortly thereafter. When she attended a November meeting in Portland as a representative of the CPB, she says she received a different reaction than to what she was accustomed. “People were pulling me aside. I haven’t changed who I am or what I do, but I have people pulling me aside asking what I think about different things, where previously it wouldn’t have mattered what I thought,” she says.
The sudden change in perception isn’t her favorite thing, but Cahill says she loves the opportunity to talk about radio and share her ideas, even if it wasn’t part of her plan to do it this way. “The thought never entered my mind,” she says. “I wanted to be a rock star. I never thought about being on the board.”