Former WFLA-Ch. 8 anchor Bill Ratliff, who retired at Tampa's NBC affiliate last year after the station proposed cutting back his work hours and salary, will return to local TV as an analyst for 2010 election coverage.
But he's doing it for rival CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10.
The move makes sense: Ratliff, 61, built up a tremendous amount of viewer loyalty during 12 years as an anchor on WFLA's morning show and 27 years' total at the station. Long before he took that job, he spent a year covering the 1986 race for the U.S. Senate between Bob Graham and Paula Hawkins.
"The one thing I know about Florida politics, is that no one is an expert," said Ratliff. "But a couple of people over here recommended me, they called, and now I'm really excited to get back to it."
Ratliff said he had no noncompete contract clause keeping him from work at other stations when he left WFLA last year. But he needed time to decompress after 12 years of rising at 3 a.m. to work the morning shift. "If (WFLA) had called, I probably would have said yes to them," he added. "But they never did."
Ratliff made his first appearance on WTSP Monday during their 5:30 p.m. newscast. He's expected to appear two to three times each week over the next three months.
Right now, he'll be talking over political issues inside the studio. WTSP news director Pete Roghaar hopes that if the next three months go well, it may be the beginning of a long-term association between the station and Ratliff that could last at least until the Republican national convention comes to Tampa in 2012.
"Bill has a lot of equity in this market," Roghaar said. "It's great to have somebody like that at your beck and call in an important election season."