TAMPA — Longtime WFLA-Ch. 8 news anchor Gayle Sierens announced Monday night that she will retire from the station next year.
Her announcement marks the third local broadcasting veteran in about 10 days to announce a pending retirement. WTVT-Ch. 13 anchor John Wilson announced last month that he will retire in November. The Fox station's morning anchor, Anne Dwyer, also said she will retire this month.
Sierens, 59, joined Ch. 8 in 1977 after graduating from Florida State University with a degree in mass communications. She worked first as a sports reporter and anchor in sports, then moved to news anchor in 1985.
A story on WFLA's website said Sierens will anchor her last 11 p.m. news show at the end of this year and her last 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. shows May 20.
"I'm truly excited for this next phase of my life," Sierens said. "I have worked the night shift for more than three decades. I'm eager to go to bed at a normal time, and have time to travel with my husband and children. I'm even hoping to improve on my golf game, and looking forward to more time to volunteer in our community."
With Wilson leaving WTVT, NPR television critic Eric Deggans called Sierens "the last of the old-school anchors who really dominated their broadcast and really bonded with viewers. I think that's why she lasted for so long."
For more than 20 years, Sierens teamed with Bob Hite, who retired seven years ago. They were the most popular duo in the market, said Deggans, who covered television for years for the Tampa Bay Times.
"People really watched the evening news then and really bonded with the big teams and knew them by their first names," Deggans said. "News teams were like a surrogate family, with the male and female being the husband and wife, the sports guy was the knuckleheaded kid and the weather guy was the nerdy kid.
"Gayle was the most successful modern iteration of that."
On the broadcast Monday, Sierens said her retirement had been in the works for some time. WFLA president and general manager Brad Moses had offered her a "fat, long-term contract," she said, but she knew it was time to do other things.
"Gayle is a Tampa Bay icon and if we had a jersey to retire, we would be hanging it in our newsroom," Moses said. "We will miss her insights, daily news judgment and passion for keeping Tampa Bay viewers informed."
Sierens made sports history in 1987 when she became the first woman to do play-by-play on a National Football League broadcast, calling a Seattle-Kansas City game. It was a one-time event, though Sierens did appear on NBC NFL studio programming in 1988.
She has won Florida Emmy awards in both sports and news.
Known for her trademark deep voice, Sierens had surgery on her vocal cords in 1995 to remove nodules that caused increasing raspiness.
She is also known for charitable and community activity. She and her husband, Mike Martin, owner of Mike's Pies, have been married 26 years and have three children.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Stephen Nohlgren can be reached at [email protected]ay.com.