Outstanding Media Service Award, Electronic Division: Jim Birkemeyer | News

During his junior year at Comfrey High School, Jim Birkemeyer was asked by his teacher and counselor, Mrs. (Carol) Hayes, if he had given any thought to a potential career path. He had not, which wasn’t unexpected from students who were busy with playing sports and growing up on a farm.

But Mrs. Hayes pressed on. She urged Birkemeyer, a 1981 graduate of Comfrey, to allow his passions and interests to be the guide in exploring a career that would be fulfilling, rewarding and of service to others. Mrs. Hayes, in her tiny office, began rattling off professions, vocations and service-oriented careers, but nothing struck a chord, until she mentioned one: Radio Broadcasting.

He let the idea swirl a bit.

Afterall, he played every sport there was in the community and could talk about every player from the Vikings, Twins and North Stars, and debate their statistics. He’d listen endlessly to the way radio legend Jim Bartels from nearby New Ulm would call games in pristine tenor and vivid imagery that it seemed like a game jumped out at you from the radio dial.

“That was my moment where it all made sense,” Birkemeyer says now. “She told me I was one of those few students who could remember names, dates, places and paid attention to current events. It is a passion, and as can happen in life, it was determined to be my path.”

Birkemeyer’s career path through radio over the past 37 years has been one that has ranged from on-air personality, sales, ownership and leadership through many roles, including the current chairman of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association. For his commitment to the member schools and communities his stations serve, Birkemeyer has been selected the recipient of the 2024 Minnesota State High School League’s Outstanding Media Service Award in the electronic news-medium division.

He will be recognized on March 23 during the League’s Boys Basketball State Tournament at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.

Birkemeyer, whose career journey includes two stints in North Dakota, owns 12 radio stations in northwestern Minnesota, serving the communities of Ada, Mahnomen, Fosston, Brainerd and International Falls.

“I really enjoy talking about the athletes, their communities and truly painting the picture of all the good things that are happening,” Birkemeyer said. “I am old-school radio. My thoughts and words work well together to share games and features. As a young kid, I was 9, I learned how to drive a farm tractor from a blind man. He did all of the controls, but he would tell me, “you are my eyes, tell me where to go.” I became descriptive, in part, because of that experience.”

Birkemeyer first became a station owner at age 24. He dived into ownership with zest and no worries about what the future might hold. He had learned about the sales side along the way and found a balance with business, and of course, the visible piece of the radio industry, being an on-air personality. He created coaches shows, awards banquets, featured athletes of the week and celebrated with communities during seasons of highs and lows.

As an influential leader with the Minnesota Broadcasters Association, Birkemeyer uses his experience and vision to ensure that radio remains vibrant, not only at the local and regional levels but also nationally.

“Radio is intended to serve the communities; that is who I am,” Birkemeyer said. “I’ve been blessed in being able to create my own path. It truly is a joy.”

By yowuj