David Finfrock, who has been with KXAS/Channel 5 since 1975 and has been the station's chief meteorologist since 1991, has announced a long-term agreement with the station that will culminate with his retirement in 2018.
"I didn't really have any set plans [to retire]," Finfrock said during an interview at the station. "But I turn 60 next May, and I knew that at some point in this next decade, I was going to be leaving, but I didn't know if it would be at 62 or 65 or I'd even stick around to 68. But I didn't have any set plans. This gives us an opportunity to make those plans for the station."
Finfrock's current deal expires in May; the new agreement goes till May 2018. Finfrock says the contract includes an option in which he can cut back to four or three days a week during the last two years of the new agreement.
Part of those plans involve Rick Mitchell, who joins the station this week and could make his on-air debut as early as next week. Mitchell will handle weather duties during the 4 and 10 p.m. weekday newscasts as Finfrock cuts his schedule back to the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts. They will double-team on nights when severe weather occurs.
Mitchell is also likely to be the station's next chief meteorologist. Finfrock is only the second chief meteorologist in the station's 64-year history, following Harold Taft, who died in 1991.
"This gives us a long time to plan for the transition to Rick," Finfrock says. "I mean, nothing is guaranteed in this business, but everyone is assuming that he will take over. It's something I've been concerned about -- with the legacy that Harold Taft started here and left to me ... I don't want it to be like so many other stations, where you have a new guy in every four or five years."
Finfrock has always insisted that the station's meteorologists have a bachelor of science in meteorology. "We always insist on professionals, not somebody who got [certified] through a broadcast course or fell into it from reporting and wound up doing weather," Finfrock says. "Rick's been doing weather for 18 years in Oklahoma City, through some of the worst tornadoes they've ever had. He has got the chops for it."
There's more to the weather shuffle. Mitchell was originally hired to do mornings, but those duties will go to Grant Johnston, who has been doing weather on weekend newscasts. Johnston replaces Jennifer Lopez, who exited the station a couple of months ago; Samantha Davies, who had been filling in, will return to doing 4:30-5 a.m. weekday morning forecasts. Weekend-morning meteorologist Remeisha Shade will remain in place. (The station has not named a permanent morning traffic reporter to replace Tammy Dombeck, who left in July after 12 years with the station, but it's possible that Davies could fill in doing traffic.)
Finfrock says the new contract and retirement gives him a chance to look to the future.
"I can spend a lot more time with my grandkids," Finfrock says. "And we own some property out in the country, and I really like it out there, getting out of the city and cutting some brush. I don't go to the gym, but I do a lot of physical labor."
He is also an avid traveler, and has often linked his vacations to his love of weather. His past vacations have included trips to Mongolia and Easter Island with Earthwatch.
"You volunteer with a scientific organization and do research," he says. "I was doing archaeology on both of those occasions. You feel like you're really accomplishing something, plus you see a part of the world you wouldn't see otherwise, with experts that really know what they're doing. It's a lot more interesting than just going as a tourist."
With other longterm DFW personalities leaving or cutting back the amount of newscasts they do, Finfrock says he can see how people could view his leaving the 10 p.m. newscast as a step back. But he says he's not looking at it that way.
"I got into this business because of meteorology," he says. "I have a B.S. in meteorology, I don't have a degree in journalism or television or radio or broadcasting. I don't have a huge ego about face time on TV and what shows I do. I want to study the weather and do the best I can for the viewers. And one of the best ways I can help the viewers is to make sure Rick is accepted well here."