Schmitz surprised by abrupt dismissal at WTVM

Chief meteorologist plans to look for work locally

jmustian@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 30, 2011 

For more than two decades, Kurt Schmitz made a living forecasting the often mercurial weather patterns of the Chattahoochee Valley as WTVM’s chief meteorologist. But for all his years of making predictions, Schmitz said the station’s decision to let him go last week never appeared on his radar.

Seeking to forestall a flurry of rumors, Schmitz stressed in a phone interview Tuesday that he did not quit his job, and that nothing “unseemly” prompted his abrupt departure. He said he found his dismissal particularly surprising because he recently signed a contract renewal and intended to spend the remainder of his career with the station.

“This is just a sudden and unexpected event to me,” Schmitz said. “Their official line was that I did quit,” he added, “but that is not the case.”

Schmitz has become one of the most recognizable faces in local television. But WTVM has removed any mention of Schmitz from its website, and management refused to discuss the matter when contacted Tuesday.

“This is a confidential personnel issue and I won’t be able to comment,” Lee Brantley, the station’s general manager, said in an email.

Schmitz said he was limited in what he could say, but he recalled being immediately called into a meeting upon arriving at work Friday.

“I left the meeting, headed back down to my work station, and at that point I was met by management -- who I had just left in the meeting -- and was sent home.”

Schmitz said he was “kind of in limbo” over the weekend because he anticipated meeting Brantley on Monday and “never got any notice that I was no longer an employee.” He appeared Saturday at an event at the National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center and said he tried to help out online during a busy day when he noticed a password had been changed.

As of Tuesday morning, Schmitz said he hadn’t been allowed back into the station to gather his belongings. Schmitz said he has an attorney but would not comment on whether he intends to take legal action.

Schmitz, 55, joined WTVM as chief meteorologist in 1989 after working in the San Antonio market.

“I was looking forward to getting through this newest contract and maybe another one, and I probably was ready to retire from the business,” Schmitz said.

He said he is “definitely looking” for work and added, “I have no plans to leave Columbus.” He wouldn’t comment on the specifics of his most recent contract with WTVM or say whether it included a non-competition provision that could preclude him from signing on with another local station.

“I still love weather,” Schmitz said. “I will miss not only being involved with weather on a daily basis, but I’m going to mostly miss the people I worked with and also interacting with the viewers. That was the fun part of the job.”

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