Willis Kern | WGLT

Willis Kern

Correspondent, Retired 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.


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.


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.


Many presidential inaugurals aspire Americans to do great things, think great ideas. Donald Trump's speech seemed to vary significantly from that theme.

Office of U. S. Rep. Paul Ryan / Facebook

Entering the office with extremely low public approval ratings, soon-to-be President Donald Trump will likely start burning his political capital quickly. That's according to Kerri Milita, associate professor of Politics and Government at Illinois State University.

During Sound Ideas, Milita said Trump's best chances to get things done are during the first 100 days of his presidency.


The future of the Affordable Care Act is up in the air, on the eve of the advent of the Trump administration and with a new Congress sworn in.

Kevin Dooley / Flickr

A state insurance fund created to protect Illinois farmers who store grain at failed facilities has seen its first claims in years.  

Illinois Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Rebecca Clark says the state's Illinois Grain Insurance Fund has had its first claims since April 2012. The claims stem from the state's revocation last week of the operating license of Keller Grain Co., which operates in Anna and Jonesboro in southern Illinois.  

Fernando Butcher / Flickr

Some of the top business stories of 2016 dealt with things like Robo-advising and block chain. In this edition of Sound Money, GLT's Willis Kern continues the countdown of the top stories of last year with the top five. 

The stories were selected by Edgar Norton, Director of Illinois State University's Institute for Financial Planning and Analysis.

  • #5 Emerging international markets
  • #4 Illinois budget stalemate
  • #3 New fiduciary rule
  • #2 Brexit
  • #1 Trump election

Ron Cogswell / Flickr

A plan to erect a statute of President Ronald Reagan as a young lifeguard is on hold in his hometown.  

Dixon Mayor Jim Burke was leading the effort to place a statue along the Rock River. But Burke died in February, and the project has stalled.  

John Weitzel is a lifelong resident of Dixon, where Reagan worked as a lifeguard for seven summers. He says the statue would be ``wonderful'' but no one else is leading the effort. Weitzel says ``it's a shame.''  

Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

Brush and bulky waste pickup in Bloomington will be switching weeks beginning next year. On January 1, the collection of non-trash and recycle items will switch to the week opposite regular recycle collection.

BTC Keychain / Flickr

2016 was a very big year for news, and it also yielded some pretty big business news headlines.

In this edition of Sound Money, GLT's Willis Kern looks back at some of the top business stories of the past year, along with Edgar Norton, Director of Illinois State University's Institute for Financial Planning and Analysis.

  • #10 Robo-advising
  • #9   Indexing wins
  • #8   Negative interest rates
  • #7   Blockchain
  • #6   Carbon energy collapse


Staff / WGLT

Bloomington police are looking into another incident of shots fired on the city's west side.

At 9:41 p.m. Monday, police were called to multiple reports of shots fired in the 900 block of West Olive Street. Police arriving on the scene were told that two young black males were seen running from the area, and may have made a getaway in a dark colored vehicle.

Police say there are no reports on damage or injuries related to the shots being fired.

Anyone with more information about the incident is asked to contact Bloomington Police.

Kelly Garrett

For Kelly Garrett of Bloomington, her father's first plane ride at the age of 89 was a great experience. The second, not so much.

Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

Illinois State University won't become a "Sanctuary Campus," for undocumented students.

During Sound Ideas, President Larry Dietz said he doesn't see any public university in Illinois granting themselves that status.


The jobs picture in Bloomington-Normal continues to improve, while the housing market consists of a "glass half full" picture, according to Mike Doherty, senior economist with the Bloomington-based Illinois Farm Bureau, and the presenter for the fourth quarter's BN By the Numbers event at ISU Thursday.

Emma Shores

In an effort to train students how to best respond to emergency situations, Illinois State University's Safety program held an incident scenario on campus.

The scenario involved a fork-truck accident in a campus warehouse, and involved police, fire and rescue officials, in addition to ISU Theater students playing the roles of those involved in the mishap. Nora Fredstrom, an ISU senior from Normal double-majoring in Safety and Chemistry, was one of the students responding to the incident, without any prior knowledge to what she would be encountering. Her instructor is Paul Ronczowski, a 20 year veteran with ISU's Department of Health Sciences.  


Heartland Community College is the latest central Illinois taxing body to sign off on an incentive package and tax abatements to help lure Rivian Automotive to the twin cities.


Monthly vigils for social justice are returning to the twin cities.

After a several year break, organizer Linda Unterman is bringing back gatherings the second Tuesday of the month, outside the Bloomington Center for Performing Arts. Unterman helped organize similar events in the aftermath of the Iraq war, in conjunction with moveon.org

Staff / WGLT

Union organizers from Chicago descended on the Illinois State University campus Friday, seeking help from students in spreading the word about what it considers global exploitation of workers in Mexico and the moving of union jobs from a Nabisco plant in Chicago.

Ralph Weisheit

Bloomington Police will open a substation on the city's west side. According to a release from Mid-Central Community Action, the two groups are partnering on opening a new community substation at a home owned by Mid-Central at 828 West Jefferson Street.

Staying Out Of Debt

Nov 29, 2016
Keoni Cabral / Flickr

It makes sense to keep your debt load low, but what's the best way accomplish that?

During Sound Money, Edgar Norton, director of Illinois State University's Institute for Financial Planning and Analysis, said credit cards are a main culprit.

"We need to get spending under control. Part of that is looking at, 'what am I spending money on now? And what's really necessary, and what can I cut back?'," Norton said.

Illinois State University

A central Illinois HIV/AIDS health educator and advocate is reminding everyone the virus and disease are completely preventable.

Chris Wade, is the HIV project coordinator at the Illinois Public Health Association; director of prevention services for Central Illinois Friends of People With AIDS; and co-chair of the Illinois Alliance for Sound AIDS Policy (ILASAP). He will give the keynote address Thursday, December 1 as World AIDS Day events wind up at Illinois State University.

Ken Teegardin, seniorliving.org / Flickr

There was some stability in the Peoria area economy during the third quarter.

At least that's what figures compiled by Bradley University's Center for Business and Economic Research seem to indicate. Director Bernard Goitein says there were some slight gains made in the over jobs market, including apparent emerging entrepreneurs.

Northern Illinois University Press

As Illinois State University's football Redbirds prepare for an unprecedented third consecutive appearance in the NCAA-Football Championship Subdivision post-season tournament, a central Illinois native has written a book on the history of the program.


Sales of newly-constructed single family homes remain down and the head of the Bloomington-Normal Realtor's Association says regulatory issues are mostly to blame.

Ed Neaves, President of BNAR said, a decade ago, as much as 27 percent of the market was new construction. He says that segment has struggled since the great recession of 2008.

"The regulations, the federal banking issues, financing, cost of construction, new construction sales have (dwindled) down to about eight or nine percent of the market," Neaves said.