NEWS- Schilling filling: Former councilor takes to the air
When Republican Rob Schilling lost his seat on City Council in the May election, he wasn't sure what he'd do with his time. He's dabbled in music and real estate, but it was radio that finally captured him on Monday, October 16, when Schilling joined WINA's morning show, filling in for Dick Mountjoy as co-host with Jane Foy.
"If you'd asked me a couple of months ago, I never would have guessed this, but it's really great," says 44-year-old Schilling hours after his inaugural show aired on 1070 AM.
Mountjoy has successfully battled tongue cancer, but although he recently paid an on-air visit to the station, it may be some time before he can return to work.
"I'm keeping his seat warm for him," says Schilling.
Though the transition from politics to radio host is a big one, Schilling says he's gotten some practice the last several months by guest-hosting WINA shows.
In one recent fill-in– for Coy Barefoot on the latter's evening drivetime spot, "Charlottesville, Right Now"– Schilling interviewed UVA's fiery former Dean of African American Affairs, Rick Turner, whose abrupt July retirement followed his guilty plea to charges of lying to federal prosecutors about the activities of a known drug dealer.
Schilling, known for posing tough questions to his Democratic colleagues on Council, steered clear of the matter, even after the Hook editor called in to accuse Schilling of lobbing "softballs."
The host remains unfazed.
"This was not an opportunity to grill a guest," Schilling says, "but rather to give someone who I don't think has been heard from in this type of forum a chance to talk about what he was interested in talking about."
Schilling says Turner was willing to field questions from callers– and even offered his home number on air. "He addressed it the way he wanted to," says Schilling, "so that was his choice."
And Turner's not the only one who'll benefit from this kinder, gentler Schilling.
"One of the guests this week is going to be [former Democratic city councilor] Blake Caravati, who once accused Schilling of practicing "the politics of no."
"I'll be talking about our sister city, Besançon," says Schilling. "I don't intend to be confrontational. We're talking about sister cities, not politics."
Schilling's easy-going manner is a good fit for the show, says co-host Foy.
"I'm really tickled," says Foy. "This is not a job that's easy to fill," she says. "It's hard to ask someone to get up at 4am to come to work."
Schilling's familiarity with the city is another plus.
"We don't have to train him to say 'Rye-o' Road," she laughs, "and he knows where a place like Court Square is."
The two arrive at the studio at 5:15am, 45 minutes before showtime. After spending four hours– from 6-10am– chatting with Foy, interviewing guests, and otherwise entertaining listeners, Schilling says, he heads home to spend some quality time with his wife and their almost-three-year-old son, Gabriel.
"I'm enjoying some downtime," says the former councilor. "I'm not getting too deeply into other local issues, but this allows me to keep my hand in a little bit."
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO