Pa. morning anchor Tom Willliams abruptly leaves station to consider run for state assembly

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A popular morning anchor at WNEP in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, has called it quits after nearly 30 years with the station in order to run for political office.

Tom Williams, who has co-anchored “Newswatch 16 This Morning” since 1996, abruptly left the station Friday, March 18, 2022.

He officially announced his candidacy as a Republican in the 119th District on March 29, 2022.

March 18, 2022, the day Williams left WNEP, is listed as the “first day to circulate and file nomination petitions for Senator in the General Assembly, Representative in the General Assembly, and Member of State Committee” on the state’s Secretary of State website.

Insiders say Williams’ departure was a surprise to most, with only a few people knowing in advance he’d be leaving. The station paid tribute to him on-air March 18, but did not mention his plans to run for office, though his candidacy was not official as of that time.

Among the priorities he has learned from talking to voters are lowering gas prices and getting new funding for road construction and repair projects, including through the use of partnerships.

He also mentioned that he feels local businesses were “ignored” when they were “unilaterally shut down during the pandemic.”

Williams is running to replace Democratic Gerald Mullery, who is not seeking re-election.

The primary is scheduled for May 17, 2022.

Williams has worked at WNEP since 1987, leaving briefly before returning in 1992. He reported for the station before becoming a weekend anchor.

He moved to the weekday morning anchor desk in 1996 and co-anchored the powerhouse morning newscast that often outperformed rivals WYOU and WBRE by more than double their combined viewership (for a portion of that time, the two stations were simulcasting the same morning newscast).

He and co-anchor Mindi Ramsey appeared on air with meteorologist Joe Snedeker, another veteran of the station known for his outrageous forecasts, and reporter Ryan Leckey. Prior to Ramsey, Williams co-anchored with Kim Supon, who left the station

WNEP has lost many of its biggest names over the past decade.

Paola Giangiacomo left in 2011 after nearly 13 years at the station. She spent time at Fox’s cable channel and WFMZ in Allentown, Pennsylvania, before returning to the market at WBRE and WYOU in 2022 as a “special projects” reporter and anchor, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Marisa Burke, a longtime primary anchor and producer, retired in 2016, as did longtime chief meteorologist Tom Clark. Both personalities, who were reportedly some of the highest paid in the market, accepted buyouts from Tribune, the then owner of the station, that reportedly included a year’s salary and benefits, according to an interview Burke gave at the time.

Another popular anchor, Julie Sidoni, left the station in 2021 to take over the news operation at WVIA, the PBS member station in the market. The move likely resulted in a pay cut, but Sidoni cited being able to spend more time with her family as one of the reasons for her move.

Primary co-anchor Sharla McBride, who moved over from sports, left in 2020 after 12 years at the station to join WUSA in Washington, D.C.

With Williams leaving, the station’s morning daypart, which had retained a stable talent roster since 2006, is left looking for a new co-anchor.

It’s not uncommon for TV personalities to run for public office, though ethics rules require them to resign from their posts as reporters or anchors before doing so.

Many TV personalities leverage being well known in the region they plan to run for office in as well as their skills of being clear and effective communicators.

Another former WNEP anchor, Frank Andrews Shimkus, served as a state representative as a Democrat in the 113th District in 2007 until 2018. He ran under his given last name, Shimkus, despite being known on air as simply Frank Andrews.

Andrews also anchored at the local CBS affiliate WYOU where he was also assistant news director. During much of his time at WNEP, he was news director as well as an anchor.