((Carol and Jim Ott are pictured on the deck of their Mequon home July 9. After retiring last year, after 30 years as a weatherman on WTMJ-TV Channel 4, Jim Ott took on a new challenge: elected office. He serves as a state Assemblyman in the 23rd Assembly District. (Catholic Herald photo by Sam Lucero)) on right
Bob Dolan with wife Beth at Greenfield Park in West Allis, retired last year as morning co-host on 1130 WISN-AM Radio in Milwaukee. (Catholic Herald photo by Sam Lucero)
July 26, 2007
Celebrities opt for second career Catholic media personalities Bob Dolan and Jim Ott take on new interests By Karen MahoneySpecial to Mature Lifestyles
After 30 years of working in the public eye or the traditional workforce, most people would be counting down the days to retirement.
But not local luminaries, Bob Dolan and Jim Ott.
Upon retiring from their distinguished media positions, both energetic men are keeping busy and plan to stay that way.Dolan left his lengthy career as sportscaster for WTMJ-TV, play-by-play man for Marquette basketball, pro-bowling, and college football, and, most recently, as co-host of the Weber and Dolan talk show for WISN-AM, at age 49 to pursue his own television interests.
“I made the decision to leave the more traditional broadcasting world in order to begin my own television production company, Dolan Productions LLC, for two reasons: a new challenge and time of life,” he admitted, adding, “I embrace new challenges, I feed off them. Thus, I have left several very good jobs in my life in order to tackle a new challenge; and I will leave it to others to determine if this personality trait is a character flaw or a character strength.”
Dolans kick off travel showAt age 50, Dolan, brother of Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, felt the time was right to pursue a new career. With college-age children, he and his wife Beth considered themselves young enough and healthy enough to begin their travel show, “A Husband & Wife Vacation: For Better, For Worse!” in 2006. The program, which runs on WISN-TV Channel 12, Saturdays at 11 a.m., averages 45,000 viewers per episode, which is considered an excellent rating for the time slot.
“We taped our first episode in July and the series went on the air in August, and so far, 30 episodes, including repeats, have been broadcast,” he said. “In addition, our episodes are now available on Time Warner Cable’s Wisconsin on Demand, and they are airing in four other markets in the Midwest.”
The series gives a hidden perspective and insight into the world of husband and wife travel, from the fun to the frustrating, admitted Dolan.“Our target audience is the baby boomer husband and wife, because that is what we are,” he said. “We’re about couples who have a little more time and a little more money to travel because their children are now grown and gone.”
Travel show filled a nicheThe decision to produce a program based on travel stemmed from the Dolans’ passion for the same; they often watched travel programs together, but never saw one that was hosted by a husband and wife team.
“We believed our show would appeal to other husbands and wives and believed that this fact alone could set our show apart,” he said. “Now, it turns out our idea was so good that The Travel Channel took our idea and is starting a husband and wife travel show of their own.”
In addition to the travel show, Dolan produced the television program, “One Archdiocese, Two Basilicas,” broadcast last winter. He also produces “Potawatomi Sports Attic” sports memorabilia show for Channel 24, and is producing a video on location in Rome, for a college in Minnesota. He remains mum about his latest project, and offered only a teaser for an explanation of the program’s content.“It is an exciting project that will debut this winter in Milwaukee,” he said.
The most difficult aspect in leaving WISN-AM was the close friends and co-workers he left behind, but Dolan embraced the idea to venture off on his own for his greatest challenge of all. Understandably, running a television production company can entail great responsibility as well as a bit of fortuitousness; but he would have it no other way. Independent and conscious about potential successes and disappointments, he loves everything about running his own business.
“I love being my own boss, making a decision and not having to run it by 12 different committees,” he said. “I love working some days in my sweat pants and I love being able to sneak in nine holes of golf on a Tuesday afternoon.”
Leaning on faith for guidanceDolan, a member of St. Luke Parish in Brookfield, credits his strong Catholic faith with his role to pursue the lifestyle decision, and because he takes his faith seriously, it made his choice and easy one
“My faith teaches me that there are so many other things more important than what we choose to do for a career,” he said, “And whether or not I succeed or fail in this new endeavor means very little when you have God and family and friends playing an important and active role in your life.”
While life in the public eye can have the downfall of instant recognition, Dolan is quick to dispel the notion that he is worthy of celebrity status.
“To me, a celebrity would be an athlete or a movie star,” he said. “That being said, being in the public eye is most often a good thing and very rarely a frustrating thing. It’s a positive because you can make things happen, you can get people to help you do good things and you can get in a lot of doors; it can also help you meet new people and make new friends.”
Dolan is serious when disclosing that he applied for his AARP card when he turned 50, but was happy to find that he felt no different than when he turned 40.
“You are as old as you feel,” he said. “I don’t feel 50. I don’t feel like two thirds of my life is over, instead I believe the best is yet to come and I embrace this next phase of my life.”From weather man to assemblyman
Although former WTMJ-TV Channel 4 meteorologist Jim Ott was always interested in government, it wasn’t until his forced retirement, after 30 years with the station, that his passion became his career.
“It was difficult to leave, but with TV, it isn’t that unexpected,” he admitted. “You don’t really see a lot of people in news, weather and sports who work until 65 and most leave earlier for one reason or another — that’s why I got my law degree in 2000, because I anticipated that day coming.”
Despite the initial disappointment, Ott rarely has time to miss his days working for the television station; last November, he was elected State Representative for District 23. A Republican, he is vice chair of the National Resources Committee, on the Education Reform Committee, the Committee on Elections and Constitutional Law, and the Assembly Committee on Workforce Development.
“I think our form of government is so successful compared to what we see in many other parts of the world,” he said. “We have a representative type in which people play a role — it is very unique and our founding fathers were really brilliant when they came up with this, and we are still doing it. When you see what is going on in other parts of the world, you really appreciate what we have here.”
An important advantage with his new position is the ability to reach out to the citizens within his district who need a little extra help.
“People call my office with problems they are having with state agencies and certain facets of government and either I, or my secretary, can go right to the department to solve the problem with the issue they are facing,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the political leanings, they are all non-partisan and we do what we can to help within our office. It can be frustrating for people who call and get an automatic phone system and not often able get to a real person. With our office, you call and you get to a real person.”
At age 60, Ott is as energetic as many adults half his age, and he credits his faith for leading him to work in service to the people both in the public sector as an elected official and in service to Christ at his Mequon parish, Lumen Christi. Otts host grief ministry programFor the past 22 years, Ott and his wife Carol have hosted a grief ministry support group at the parish. Ott met Carol during a period of mourning, after they each lost a spouse.
The group became an extension of the healing ministry they offered to each other and is a helpful resource for all, not just Roman Catholics, who are grieving over the loss of someone important in their lives.
“The grief support gives a setting with others who are experiencing or who have experienced the same thing; it is a chance to get together twice a month for an hour and a half,” he said. “It is a very rewarding ministry partly because it isn’t something that anyone can decide to do; we work from our own experience as well as utilizing my wife’s expertise. She has a Ph.D. in educational psychology and is a licensed counselor as well.”
While the numbers who attend the support meetings vary from month to month, the primary focus remains unchanged.
“It is a very good discussion group and helpful for others who are dealing with the same thing,” he said. “There is comfort and camaraderie — and the recognition that when a wife, husband, child or sibling dies that it is a unique and painful experience.”
Important to use God-given giftsWhile he understands that he is still young and healthy enough to pursue more recreational pastimes, Ott enjoys the challenge of a second career and feels that it is imperative to use the gifts God has given him for others.
“I have a responsibility to use those gifts and if you were to categorize everything, God always comes first,” he said. “I find that accomplishing things and doing worthwhile things are both rewarding and challenging and believe it is good to challenge ourselves.”
Years in the public eye often bring a variety of stares, comments, and positive and negative attention, but, like Dolan, Ott takes those moments in stride and finds that most people are friendly.
“I enjoy talking to people and meeting them, but since I really qualify as an introvert, having something to talk about really helps,” he said. “Most people will say, ‘I’ve watched you on TV a long time,’ and I tell them that I appreciate that, it keeps me in business.”
Since much of Ott’s life surrounded the weather and all of its vicissitudes, most comments had to do with his perfect and not so perfect forecasts.
“Oh, I got complaints about the weather, and people would sometimes think there was something I could do about it,” he said, laughing. “That was what was most funny about it. The hardest part is that none of us is perfect, nobody forecasts perfectly and forecasts can go wrong. On the flip side, if you consistently do a good job and hit difficult forecasts, it is quite rewarding.”
Prior to the election, Ott was traveling door-to-door campaigning so he could meet the people in his district and get a feel for their concerns. While Ott expected that most people might recognize him, he was taken a bit off guard when he rang one woman’s doorbell on steamy afternoon last July.
“It was about 4:15 p.m., and you have to remember, I had been off the air since the end of April. A woman answered the door and she had this surprised look on her face,” he said. “She said, ‘I was wondering about you; I was just watching the weather and wondering if you were OK — and here you are!’ That was really nice.”
Admittedly, when Ott would correctly call a sunny, 75-degree Saturday, everyone was happy. With politics, it isn’t always that easy.
“Of course, if you forecast rain on a Saturday, people won’t be happy, but in politics there is much more at stake,” he said. “We make decisions that really affect people and you just can’t please everybody with these decisions and form of government. However, every four years we elect a new president and even though there is contentious campaigning, all will agree and work with the leadership. But in a dictatorship it is often who controls the army and it isn’t often a peaceful transition of power many times, so I really respect our form of government.”