Don Germaise, ABC Action News' longest-tenured reporter, to retire from the station May 25
He admits being much more comfortable reporting the news than being in it.
But Don Germaise will take center stage at least once more at Tampa ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28, following news that he has decided to retire from the station May 25, ending his run as the station’s longest-tenured reporter.
Germaise, 53, was the first reporter hired at WFTS and fronted the first story broadcast on the station, which debuted its news department in 1994 amid a massive affiliation switch among several stations in the Tampa market.
"All I remember is, it was a story about a child molester in Manatee County," said the reporter, noting he and his photographer had to rush to the station’s studios, then in Clearwater, to deliver the report because they had no satellite trucks. "(Anchor) Brendan McLaughlin mispronounced my name in my first story…We still joke about it."
Germaise developed a reputation for boundless energy and attention-getting presentations, telling viewers to “hunker down” so much during hurricane coverage – he reported from most every major storm in Florida during the 2000s -- it became a catchphrase fans still occasionally toss at him in public.
When he held up a potato chip to show how Calgary’s Saddledome looked like a Pringle during hockey coverage, it sparked arguments among passionate fans in Canada (Germaise said a Canadian family even recognized him at Disney World).
He even got stung in the face while reporting on the removal of Africanized “killer” bees from a house in Tarpon Springs.
One dark spot: Germaise was suspended for a month in 2006 after the Times reported a white separatist claimed the reporter agreed to answer questions for his camera in exchange for the separatist’s cooperation with a story for the station.
But that was a small speed bump on an expansive local career. “There's no replacing a Don Germaise,” said WFTS news director Doug Culver, who called him "the Action News go-to guy" in an email to staff. He added the station will likely air some kind of tribute.
“If nothing else, we gotta run all those ‘hunker down’ clips,” Culver said.
Though many experienced street reporters are getting pushed out of local TV, Germaise insists the decision to leave was his own; as his daughter Lexi graduates from high school in May, he wants to volunteer for local charities and work on his bucket list.
“I'm lucky enough that I don't have to work,” he said. “Now I feel I owe it to the community to give back.”