Longtime WCCO-TV reporter Pat Kessler announced on Wednesday his retirement covering daily politics and government, effective once the 2020 presidential election is decided.
In his 36 years with the station, Kessler has reported on the administrations of eight Minnesota governors and dozens of legislative sessions and political conventions, and chronicled the presidential campaigns of multiple Minnesotans.
His credits throughout his career include coverage of the death of Hubert Humphrey, the upset victory of celebrity wrestler-turned-Gov. Jesse Ventura, and the plane crash that killed U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone.
Kessler, 67, was among the first reporters in the nation to publicly fact-check politicians on TV, debuting WCCO's "Reality Check" for the 1996 Minnesota U.S. Senate election.
He interviewed hundreds of state and national officials, including presidents and future presidents from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump.
"I'm ending my daily reporting career, but I'm not ending my time at WCCO," Kessler said in an interview, adding that he will contribute to special productions and offer political analysis. "But it won't be anything like my daily reporting."
Kessler has been especially cautious professionally not to reveal the direction of his political leanings and intends for his analysis during the next stage of his career to focus on "facts and reality."
Though Nov. 3 is Election Day, Kessler said he's ready to stick it out longer if needed, until the nation learns whether President Donald Trump wins a second term or Joe Biden succeeds him.
"It's unlikely that it's November 4th," he said. "What if it's December 4th or until January 4th? I'm old enough to remember 2000, when it took 36 days in Bush v. Gore."
Kessler graduated from Hawley (Minn.) High School and attended Macalester College in St. Paul before starting his career at Minnesota Public Radio. He joined WCCO in 1984.
On the radio Wednesday afternoon during his regular segment with KFAN-FM host Dan Barreiro, Kessler described himself as just a "kid from the country who got to travel the world, meet all these people and be on the radio."
Kessler said he's been planning his retirement for the past few months. "I feel very good about this," he said.
"This is part of me, absolutely, the competitive nature of it. … On the other hand, it's not what makes me. It's just a part of me."
WCCO Vice President and General Manager Ann Ouellette said in a statement, "Pat is part of what makes WCCO a legacy newsroom, covering some of the biggest political events of our time. Our community has benefited from Pat's consistent, impartial reporting."
Gov. Tim Walz acknowledged Kessler's retirement, tweeting: "It takes time and talent to build the level of trust you did with your audience."
Kessler was inducted into the Silver Circle Hall of Fame in 2015 by the Upper Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for lifetime achievement in broadcasting.
He has also won numerous state and national journalism awards for his work, including three regional Emmy Awards for his "Reality Check" political franchise.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482