WATERLOO — Former state Rep. Deborah Berry was named president and executive director of radio station KBBG in June 2017.
Berry, who holds a master’s degree in communications and served 14 years in the Legislature and two years on the Waterloo City Council prior to that, was the unanimous choice of KBBG’s board of directors to lead the African-American radio station following the death of her predecessor, University of Northern Iowa professor Scharron Clayton.
In 2014, Berry, a Democrat and one of the longest serving African-Americans in the Legislature, was inducted into the Iowa African-American Hall of Fame. She received the 2017 History Maker Award from the African-American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids.
What drives you?
Knowing that I have to create my own opportunities in this perfect time and perfect space. Rediscovering the “new” thing that keeps me relevant, phenomenal and in the game.
What was your biggest accomplishment in 2018?
Leading the charge in rebuilding and rebranding KBBG-FM radio station. With the help a dedicated new board of directors, staff and community support (Guernsey Foundation, Community Foundation and Black Hawk County Gaming Association), we were able to purchase major equipment critical to broadcasting, standardize and maintain staff levels, and prepare KBBG for the next millennium as we reach heights using a social media platform.
What are your goals for 2019?
Personally: Stay healthy, begin writing my memoir in leadership, continue to make time to rediscover my artistic talent through painting and, most important, continue to be an inspiration speaking life into those who feel lost, moment by moment wherever I am.
Professionally: To continue to build KBBG into the powerful media center that will teach youth the importance of having a voice (community learning center) and empower all listeners in communities to be active and participate in making the community “one.” To be an all-inclusive radio station through quality programming that speaks to the needs of all sectors of our community in an effort to grow and become more enlightened; lastly, to expand into new markets through social media and other marketing opportunities.
What makes the Cedar Valley a great place for business/education?
Waterloo’s diverse community is a huge plus. In our community are members from various African nations, Pakistan and other Hindu nations; Hispanic, Asian, Bosnian, Burmese and other countries. Acknowledging, understanding and embracing the various groups opens new opportunities that support the idea of unique cultural experiences (in food, music, etc.) that make a positive contribution to the larger society. Focusing on those positives, rather than the superficial differences that divide, is an authentic strength and not a weakness.
What’s a lesson you’ve learned in your career journey?
The most prevalent lesson learned in my career journey is the importance of speaking truth to power. While in the Iowa Legislature, I was unaware that I was being groomed and cultivated for a new career in public broadcasting as president of KBBG radio station. Speaking truth to power means trusting deeply in what I believe and being persistent every day to have that heard. It may not be popular. It means taking a risk. It means standing for something. I learned it takes courage to stand upon one’s own convictions, and I must.