Willis Kern

News Director

Willis is a Bloomington, IL, native. During his senior year at Bloomington High School, he finished third in the "Radio Speaking" division of the state speech contest, the only year he competed.

Willis began his radio career in 1975 at a now-defunct station in Normal. He worked swing shifts at WJBC in Bloomington while attending ISU. He served a 14-year stint as the nighttime announcer. Willis joined WGLT in 1993 and was named news director in 1997. He has won numerous awards for reporting and news writing and has been named Downstate Best Reporter four times by the Illinois Associated Press, once in 2004 and three consecutive years 2007-2009.

Willis volunteers at his church and is involved in prison ministry. He is married with two sons and loves the St. Louis Cardinals.

Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin greeted about 500 central Illinois residents at a town hall meeting in Bloomington Friday with the words, "There was good news from Washington today."

Durbin was referring to the failure of the U.S. House to pass a Republican-backed replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

Emma Shores / Staff

The second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate will host a town hall in Bloomington on Friday and GLT will broadcast the event live. 

Assistant Minority Leader Dick Durbin will host the event 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 24, at Westbrook Auditorium in Presser Hall at Illinois Wesleyan University, at 1210 Park St. 

Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council

The 11th annual One Voice contingent of McLean County elected officials, business, social service and education leaders is preparing to head to Washington, D.C.

Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

The future of cooperation between Bloomington and Normal was among the topics discussed Thursday at the WGLT-League of Women Voters Candidate Forum featuring hopefuls from Wards 3 and 9.

With the Bloomington city council agreeing to dissolve the Metro Zone agreement with Normal, and the resulting exchanges between the two mayors including the words "disingenuous" and "untrustworthy," how the two governing bodies move forward is a matter of concern for the community.

U.S. Rep. LaHood

The health care replacement bill developed by Republicans and working through House committees on Capitol Hill establishes a starting point for improvements to the U.S. health care system, according to Congressman Darin LaHood (R-18) of Dunlap.

In a GLT interview, LaHood said the process is "complicated and nuanced."

Cristian Jaramillio / WGLT

The West Bloomington Revitalization Project (WBRP) is acquiring new property and expanding its scope of services. The organization has announced it is purchasing the former Jesus House at 724 W. Washington Street and will consolidate its operations into the location, which will feature a bike co-op.

John Morgan / Flickr

This year, taxpayers have an additional three days to get income taxes sent in to the federal government.

April 15 falls on a Saturday, and this would usually move the filing deadline to the following Monday — April 17. However, Emancipation Day — a legal holiday in the District of Columbia — will be observed on that Monday, which pushes the nation’s filing deadline to Tuesday, April 18.

Staff

With only 24 hours notice, presidents of universities from all over the state hustled to Springfield Tuesday to attend a Senate Higher Education committee hearing on the budget.

Illinois State's Larry Dietz said it was frustrating considering some observers viewed it as a political stunt by Democrats to force Governor Rauner into going along with greater revenue increases.

Staff / WGLT

The Town of Normal later this month may loosen its rules on public comment at council meetings. During Sound Ideas, Mayor Chris Koos elaborated on his proposal to end the 45-day limit on individual appearances, and expanding the total time for comment per meeting from 10 to 20 minutes.

Cristian Jaramillio / WGLT

With the city of Bloomington and town of Normal embroiled in a dispute over the west-side Metro Zone, some say the sport of soccer may help thaw relations, similar to how ping-pong helped U. S. and Soviet leaders bridge differences in the early 1970s.

Cristian Jaramillio / WGLT

The two candidates for mayor of Normal talked about the current dispute with Bloomington over the 30-year-old Metro Zone agreement, as well as other issues at the WGLT-McLean County League of Women Voters Candidate Forum at University Galleries on Thursday night.

Staff

At a City Hall news conference, Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner said his counterpart in Normal threatened to sue the city two-and-a-half years ago over possible action on the Metro Zone.

Tari Renner speaks at podium
Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner took a step toward a second term as he easily outdistanced a crowded field of challengers in the primary election Tuesday. Renner totaled 3,667 votes, while Alderman Kevin Lower finished second with 1,450 votes. The two will face each other in the municipal general election April 4.

Staff

Steve Hagge has spent the past 35 years at Crystal Lake-based AptarGroup, Inc, rising to his current role as Chief Executive Officer of the $2.3 billion company. During Sound Ideas, Hagge said the biggest thing he's learned in that time span is to think and act on a global basis.

AscendedAnathema / Wikimedia Commons

Retirements and other withdrawals from the labor force highlight the latest report of economic indicators in the Peoria metro area.

The overall index, compiled by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Bradley University, shows only two-tenths of a change down from the third quarter mark of 101.7.

staff

Challenges to petition signatures for individuals seeking local office such as council-person or mayor happen occasionally. But many of the candidates in this spring's municipal election in Bloomington faced about a half-dozen challenges before the ballot could be published last month. 

McLean County Sheriff's Dept.

A Bloomington man has been found not guilty by reason of insanity in connection with the stabbing deaths of his parents last July.

25 year-old Brian Petersen was accused of murdering his parents, Nancy and Bruce, at their rural Bloomington home. McLean County Judge Robert Freitag determined during a 30-minute bench trial Brian Petersen didn't understand the criminal aspect of his actions when he attacked his parents.

Illinois State University

The president of Illinois State University said a proposal in Springfield requiring public universities to admit first-time freshman applicants who finish with a high grade point average could have unintended consequences.

The bill, which cleared a house committee last week, would require schools admit students who scored in the top 10 percent of their high school's graduating class. During Sound Ideas, Larry Dietz said there are too many variables at play when admitting students.

Staff

The first of two Democrats to announce a formal campaign for governor says he wants a "new deal" for Illinois. Ameya Pawar visited Normal and talked about his vision for the state in a Sound Ideas interview.

Sharvelle Bullock / WZND

Life-long Democrat Jerry Springer says, for the first time in his 73-years, the very idea of what America stands for is being challenged.

Pictures of Money / Flickr

Even with 2017 well under way, there still some chances to hit the reset button.

This includes updating your personal finance situation. During Sound Money, WGLT's Willis Kern talked with Edgar Norton, Director of Illinois State University's Institute for Financial Planning and Analysis.

Emma Shores / WGLT

The McLean County Health Department is asking the public to voluntarily limit hospital visits due a recent increase in influenza.

Sue Grant is a registered nurse with the department. She said February is often a peak month for flu activity.

"People bring the disease with them when they travel at the holidays, and people are in parties and bigger events and this time of year, everyone is inside and cooped up together. So you have close contact with more people  and it's an easier spread for the flu that way," said Grant.

Staff

A parking ban is in effect in both Bloomington and Normal.

In Normal, the ban is for all cars parked on the street. In Bloomington, major roads and secondary streets, those designated as snow routes, and Downtown get top priority. They are plowed and salted. As a second priority, residential streets get plowed. Salting for the most part is limited to intersections and hills.

Facebook

Bloomington-Normal broadcasting pioneer Don Newberg has died.

He was one of the early hosts of Problems and Solutions on Bloomington station WJBC. That program is believed to be the first call-in show among U-S radio stations when it debuted in the 1950s.

Newberg later went on to become the station's news director, and an executive within the corporate organization that owned the station, moving in the 1970's to Tennessee. He returned later to manage the operation's country station.

McLean County Health Department

McLean County's top health official is announcing his retirement after eight years leading the department.

Walt Howe joined the health department in 1991 as an assistant administrator, and succeeded Bob Keller as director in 2009. During Howe's tenure, the department conducted a mass vaccination of 20,640 residents when the H1N1 threat appeared.

Howe's term was marked by controversy in late 2015 when he recommended a nearly 50% cut in funding for the county's drug court. Much of those funds were restored by the county administrator.

Jimmy Kimmel Live via Youtube

Super Bowl week activities took a backseat, at least for several hours, to a previously-unknown Illinois State University football recruit who dominated social media for more than a day.

Kansas high school football player Kobe Buffalomeat literally made headlines when his decision to play at ISU was made public during national college signing day, February 1st. His unique handle was highlighted online and otherwise by Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Washington Post, New York Times and other media outlets.

Cristian Jaramillo / Staff

A year ago, when Illinois was hitting it's seventh straight month without a budget, the Baby Fold child care and education agency was about $1.7 million in the hole. 

Cristian Jaramillio / Staff

Several programs operated by the Bloomington-Normal YWCA rely heavily on state funds. Liz German, Vice President of Operations at the YW says the impasse in Springfield has many of those programs on hold.

"We have been told that, as of January 1, there is no more money," German said during Sound Ideas. "Theoretically there are hundreds of thousands of dollars we won't be getting. This hurts because it means federal matching dollars won't be available either," she added.

One position has already been eliminated, German said, and other cuts are on the way.

Elvert Barnes / Flickr

President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court is pledging to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and the laws of the United States. 

U.S. Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch is also thanking Trump for giving him a ``most solemn assignment.''  If confirmed by the Senate, Gorsuch would succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, whose death nearly a year ago created a vacancy on the nine-member court. 

Baby Fold

Representatives from Bloomington-Normal non-profit groups are responding to Governor Rauner's State of the State message with a joint plea for a state budget.

During an interview recorded for the series Stretched Thinner, airing next week on GLT, YWCA vice president of operations Liz German, said going without a budget for nearly two years has put undue expectations on social service agencies.

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