Formerly co-hosts for 10 years in corporate radio, Heidi Adam (left) and Stan Bennett have reunited for WOXO’s morning radio show, broadcasting to Oxford Hills and the River Valley. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

NORWAY — For 10 years, Heidi Adam (then known as Heidi Knight) and Stan Bennett were a constant on Maine morning radio.

When classic rock station WFNK 107.5 FM began airing back in 2004 they hired Stan Bennett, a well known veteran in all aspects of Maine radio, as program director. Adam was hired in 2008. “Frank 107.5” was her first job in radio. Shortly after she started at the station, Bennett joined her in the studio to cover an interim vacancy. The two had immediate chemistry and genuine affection for each other.

The pair was a hit, becoming permanent partners with a huge following. They were in high demand for live remotes and functions. The station sat at the top of Nielson ratings.

Until Adam left the airwaves, on Feb. 15, 2018.

“I did not know that Stan had decided to buy his own station, because when I left, we didn’t talk for a while,” Adam explained in WOXO’s Norway studio as country music played in the background and over the air.

Pressed for the reason why two longtime, successful radio hosts would spend two years not talking, Adam finally answered, in very plain words.

“Because Stan fired me.”

“I can’t legally talk about it,” Bennett said. “Even with us working across from each other now, I’ve never had that conversation with her about that decision that was made. It’s part of the corporate, cutthroat business of radio.

“I can say this. It was not a good day for both of us. It was the worst part of being a manager in a company where managers aren’t completely in control of decision-making. It’s the worst thing a manager can do is take someone’s livelihood away. I knew it wasn’t just her job, but I took something worse.”

Despite the trauma of losing her career with no warning, Adam quickly found a great, secure job away from radio. But she carried the devastation of the loss with her.

“I really enjoyed [that company],” she said. “But it wasn’t radio. Every day that I wasn’t in radio, I thought about radio, I talked about radio and I had things to say about people who were in radio when I wasn’t. Why wasn’t I there doing that? I wanted to be there, doing that.”

Eight hundred and six days after being fired, by her count, Adam finally wrote Bennett a letter telling him just what she thought about it. That was in May, 2020, as Bennett’s plans to purchase Gleason Radio Group’s five independent radio stations were underway.

“I couldn’t move forward, I was stuck,” Adam shared. “I was angry, bitter, I was resentful and unhappy. I went to work for someone else doing radio [about a year later]. I voice-tracked from home for six months, and I left. It wasn’t what I was used to, I couldn’t feel the audience. It wasn’t right.”

In her letter she told Bennett that he had probably heard how she felt after being fired. He had not heard it from her and she had her reasons, but now she was ready to do that and she told him she forgave him, for herself.

Bennett read the letter and had no idea how he should react. He wasn’t sure if she wanted him to.

“It wasn’t like I could go up to someone for advice and share this very deep, personal letter that she wrote, that wouldn’t be right. In my mind I thought it was something she needed to do to get past it.”

“I didn’t expect a response because I don’t know how I would respond if someone wrote me a letter like that,” Adam said. “It wasn’t scathing or nasty. But it was like, these are my feelings, they are very raw. Deal with it. You’ve never heard this from me but I’ve gotta give this to you because I can’t carry it around with me anymore. I felt so much better.

“I didn’t expect a response but my heart kind of looking for one. It’s like after you break up with someone and they stop texting you and you’re like, ‘it’s okay. They’re going to text me.’ And every time your phone dings you check and then no, it’s not them. I had a hopeful heart for about a week and then I just wrote it off that he wasn’t going to write me back. But I felt better …. I could breathe again. I gave up the other radio job, which was not right for me.”

In June of last year another radio colleague texted Heidi a link to a news article about Dick Gleason, the owner of WOXO and its affiliated stations. At first she dismissed it as she had no connection to the person, who had passed away. But then she read it and learned that it was actually about her former partner’s purchase of the Gleason Radio Group.

“I was like, no sh–! He did it. Alright!” Adam said. “I remembered him saying, maybe around 2010, ‘someday I’m going to own my own stations, and I’ve already decided who is going to come work for me.’ At that time, I was like, ‘sonofabitch, you better pick me.’”

Maine Radio Hall of Famer Stan Bennett purchases WOXO and affiliated stations in 2020. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

Bennett’s purchase included 105.5 FM, the old WIGY station where he made his radio career start as a teenager, sneaking out of his parents’ house to work overnight shifts.

Despite their abrupt work divorce, Adam was thrilled for her former partner and sent him a Facebook message congratulating him.

After reading that note, Bennett turned to his wife and business partner Alison and said, “I have a crazy idea. What do you think about Heidi doing the morning show with me?”

“And we jumped all over that,” Alison said. “Although we kept it close to the vest.”

With some air cleared and a thaw warming their relations, the Bennett team did not immediately make a job offer to Adam. Instead they set about a methodical courtship period, which began with an invitation to drop by the Norway studio.

Bennett did not let on what his end game plan was. Adam just thought he was inviting her to a reunion to see his career dream realized.

“I sent the message in July,” Adam recalled. “And then he invited me in. ‘Come on up. Let me show you what I’m doing.’”

Two and a half years after her being fired, Bennett and Adam had their first meeting. Adam was beyond nervous to see him again.

“I remember when you walked in here, the look on your face,” Alison said to Adam.

Bennett maintains there was no awkwardness on his part that day, which Adam said was Sept. 23.

“I had this opportunity and I wanted to put WOXO back on the map a fast as I could,” he said. “It was important, I wanted everyone to know the new WOXO. We’re trying to entertain and give back to the community, but we’re different now.

“The way to get to that point of success, I was successful when I had Heidi as my partner. I was onto a good idea, to kill two birds with one stone. I always wanted the best for Heidi. I knew it would be a great way to get her back to something she really wanted to do, and also reintroduce the new WOXO to the area.”

But he also thought it wise to engage with her for a couple of months to be confident it would work for the long haul.

“I wanted to truly see over a period of months if it was real. It’s easy to say ‘yes yes yes,’ but when you buy something expensive and then have remorse?”

After Adam’s first visit to WOXO in September and back and forth conversations followed, Bennett next invited her to do what he claims is the most boring thing on earth: take an hours-long tower tour. The tour was to ride along back roads and in some cases point up a hill at towers transmitting his station’s radio signals.

“It gets you in the vehicle. It takes a while to get to each location so there is conversation and you learn from it,” Bennett said. “It was part of a plan to learn what was best for us, but also best for her.

“The last thing I wanted to do was take advantage of her wanting to get back into radio so badly that she would give up a great, secure job. I wanted to make sure she understood that independent, community radio would be so different than working in Portland (radio).”

The tower tour was a new (and clandestine) approach to onboarding Adam to Bennett Radio Group. While Adam was not informed they were actually interviewing, she “kinda hoped” that it was one.

“He was interviewing me hard,” Adam said. “Asking what I liked about my job, asking if I’d want to leave a good-paying job [for community radio]. I wasn’t just giving him the answers he wanted, I was being genuine. It’s not just about livelihood, it’s about personal happiness. There’s a lot more to life than money.

“It (was) about an opportunity for us both to do what we love and to live with passion, all the time.”

The tour completed and hard questions asked and answered, Bennett pressed the pause button on his and Alison’s plan as they continued to text back and forth.

“It was the week of Christmas, actually,” Adam, ever the stickler on dates and time passed, said. “He did it through a text on Dec. 21.”

“I waited, I wanted to make sure, because she’d had a long time to be angry with me [and others], that she was passed it,” Bennett continued. “And to make sure that she wasn’t coming here to compete against old stations,” but to work in a whole different world focused on community, not corporate radio.

“I hate to say this, but in the end [at Frank 107.5], I didn’t want to go to work anymore. I didn’t like the road radio was going down. Here, there is no ownership saying, ‘no, we’re going in this direction, no you can’t say this, or do this because there is no money in it.”

The text Adam received asked her if she wanted to get the band back together.

“I can’t remember if I said, ‘heck yes!’ or ‘what are you going to pay me?’”

Bennett said at that point, two weeks of a farcical negotiation took place.

“She knew I was completely broke and she knew she was going to come to work even if we’d have to eat at a soup kitchen every night. For me, I was going to give her whatever she wanted, but I had to go to Ali and figure out what we could afford to do. And she came up with the plan.”

“It was equipment that we cut,” Alison said of how she found Adam’s salary money. “Stan had wanted to upgrade equipment.”

After joking about buying her instead of upgrades Adam interjected, “let’s call it an investment. I don’t want to feel like I’m property.”

“When I announced her coming on with me,” Bennett started to say, only to be interrupted by Adam’s need to clarify the timeline

“The dance started in September,” she said. “The offer came in December. I didn’t start until February and I had to keep my damn mouth shut and keep working at my other job. It was the most difficult two months I ever worked at any job.”

She informed her employer immediately but swore them to secrecy.

Bennett made the official announcement of Adam joining him as his radio partner on Facebook on Feb. 1, two weeks before her debut.

“It got around fast,” he said. “People were very excited. It was very positive. Everywhere.”

Adam’s start date was Feb. 15, 2021, three years to the day after Bennett had fired her from WFNK. The two easily fell back in their groove.

Within three days of her start with WOXO the travails of being Heidi Adam were back on the air, just like during their old days in Portland.

Adam’s commute from Hollis to Norway runs about 70 minutes each way. Still learning the route and not having break spots along the way picked out yet, early in the morning she found herself in urgent need of a restroom.

“I was about to …. in my pants on the way to work,” she shared. “And I got pulled over. I was doing 60 in a 30 and it took forever. So I came into work and Stan started playing sirens over the air and asking, ‘does this sound familiar to you?’ And I was okay, we’re doing this. Heidi’s first day back on the radio and she’s already talking about pooping her pants! The next day a bakery owner down the street came in with a bunch of cupcakes, frosted with the poop emoji. ‘Here, this is for you for almost cupcaking yourself on the way to work.’”

The difference between community and corporate radio are worlds apart. In Norway Bennett gets to decide what direction to go in from day to day and they can change things up as often as they please, free to be creative with their time instead of marking every box of a ‘to-do’ list set by a corporate team in an office far away.

Bennett said that the best radio partners are constantly in communication, calling, texting back and forth when they’re not on the air.

“She will text me about something she saw and we should talk about tomorrow, or an idea that we can use as a promotion.”

“I’m in touch with Stan more often than I text my husband,” Adam said. “It’s a weird relationship. It’s work but it’s not work. When you have a job like this you’re working all the time. Even people who are in our industry don’t understand. The job is life and life is the job.”

“Good partners, they know when the other is going to stop,” Bennett said. “And it’s very hard to get it and get it right. Radio stations, when they get it right they consider themselves lucky. The majority of the time it doesn’t happen. It’s sort of forced.”

“It’s almost like they can end their thoughts,” Adam interjected. “It’s like a dance.

“This is where I want to be. I believe in Stan, he is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. His work ethic, his passion for radio and in his future. I want to help put him there.”

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