Fairbanks DJ Ken Vehmeier, aka Vmaxx, recently won an Anchorage Press Reader’s Choice Award for Best DJ. A longtime on-air personality, Vehmeier hosts three shows a day and does promotions and programming for Last Frontier Media.

Though his path to radio was somewhat circuitous, it also made sense.

“I’ve always loved radio,” said Vehmeier, who used to record the American Top 40 as a kid. His love for radio continued into college; Vehmeier said he was a “prize pig,” meaning he would frequently win prizes after calling in to the station. One day when he went to pick up his prize, Vehmeier was told that he should come to work at the University of Alaska Fairbanks station.

“And I said ‘Well, yeah,’” he recalled.

Changes at the station resulted in all employees being laid off. Vehmeier tried to move on from radio, deciding that “it’s real-life time.” For several years, Vehmeier worked a variety of jobs, including firefighting, cannery work, commercial fishing, truck driving and construction.

However, he always knew that he wanted to return to radio, so when the opportunity presented itself, Vehmeier jumped at it. K-WOLF FM 98.1 held a contest called “Who wants to be a DJ?”, which Vehmeier entered.

He ended up taking second place, but it got him back into radio. “I got my foot in the door,” he said. Vehmeier started doing weekend shows and then eventually went full time with K-WOLF in 2012.

Currently, Vehmeier hosts a morning show, Maxximum Mornings, a show in Anchorage and an afternoon country show. He also serves as both program and promotions director for K-WOLF, and does social media work.

To host the morning show, which is on air from 6-10 a.m., Vehmeier typically arrives at the station between 5-5:30 in the morning. In addition to his three shows, Vehmeier’s responsibilities include doing promotions, looking for content and current events, interacting with listeners and handling social media accounts.

“People think you just sit there and talk, but there’s a lot more that goes into it,” he said. “You’re busy all the time.”

Despite all that each day entails, Vehmeier enjoys the job. “It’s not like ... work,” he said. He appreciates both the variety and the flexibility the job provides. “It’s something different every day, it’s fun every day.”

Vehmeier’s enthusiasm for radio was awarded with the Anchorage Press prize last month. “I wasn’t really expecting anything,” Vehmeier said of his reaction to being nominated. But then “all of a sudden I found out that I won,” he laughed. Vehmeier was particularly surprised to win because, in addition to being up against a few “heavy hitters,” he is not based in Anchorage. “It’s pretty amazing that someone from Fairbanks got [a prize] down in Anchorage,” Vehmeier said.

Up until this prize, Vehmeier joked that his “biggest claim to fame” was a drink named after him at Sunrise Coffee. The Vmaxx is a quad shot iced mocha light on the chocolate with iced coffee. “Iced coffee’s my jam year round,” he said.

Vehmeier, however, is not in radio for recognition or prizes. One of the aspects he likes the most about his job is the ability to connect with the Fairbanks community.

“We try to be as local as we can,” Vehmeier said of the station, which promotes local news and events.

Being a local radio station means not only engaging listeners, but also using the platform to promote charitable causes and fundraisers. “One of the things I love the most about my job is all the things we get to do for nonprofits,” Vehmeier said, such as food and clothes drives. “When I walk away from it all, that will be the best thing of this job — being able to help.”

Radio has also provided Vehmeier himself with new opportunities. “Radio opened up a lot of doors for me,” he explained. Specifically, he has gotten into sports broadcasting and play by plays. “That’s what I really love,” he said, adding that, “I just love sports.”

Vehmeier began by commentating for the Fairbanks indoor football team, and now does play-by-play for UAF Nanook hockey, volleyball and basketball as well as for the Alaska Federation of High School Sports.

Outside of sports and radio, Vehmeier enjoys spending time with his kids and pets — “I’m a dog fanatic,” he said. Vehmeier is also active in a variety of outdoor activities, including snowboarding, skiing and four wheeling and, in particular, fishing.

“I’m a nut for fishing,” he said. A perk of radio is that the job “has made it so I can fish a lot.” As long as his shows are recorded, Vehmeier is able to take several days off at a time to fish.

Prior to the pandemic, Vehmeier planned to spend winters in Florida, where he had a sports commentating job, and return to Alaska in March for basketball season. He would continue to do his Fairbanks shows from Florida. However, the pandemic “kind of put an end to that.” Despite being reoffered the position, Vehmeier decided to stick with his current gig at K-WOLF.

One certainly, though, is that Vehmeier has no intentions to leave radio.

“I think I’ll always be one way or another associated with radio,” said Vehmeier, “If I can bring a smile to somebody, make someone laugh in the morning, then my job’s complete.”

Contact reporter Maisie Thomas at 907-459-7544 or mthomas@newsminer.com.

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