Yuma's Best 2012: Jay Walker
Best Local Radio Personality
Jay Walker was working as a restaurant chef in Yuma when he decided to enter a radio station contest, the winner of which would get to be an on-air DJ for a day.
He won the contest, and the daylong stint would lead to Walker filling the morning slot at KTTI 95.1 FM in Yuma. There, he was named, year after year, as Best Local Radio Personality in Yuma’s Best, the Yuma Sun’s annual reader poll.
Walker eventually moved to Z Fun Factory to resume his other passion, cooking, as head chef, but he’s since joined KCYK AM 1400 as the "voice guy" for commercials aired by the station. And once again, for 2012, he has won the honor of Best Local Radio Personality.
Not all Yuma’s Best winners can dominate the competition in successive years. What’s Walker’s formula for success? It’s not a secret, he says.
"It’s just being who I am," Walker said. "I never tried to be anything else."
A native of Oregon, Walker started out in the food service industry as the son of parents who had dedicated their careers to working in or running restaurants.
And in 1989, Walker came to Yuma in search of opportunities as a chef. He went on to cook at the Yuma Golf & Country Club, the Shilo Inn and Hungry Hunter and The Crossing.
Then came the DJ contest that led him down another career path.
Walker recalled feeling initial nervousness at the prospect of talking to thousands of listeners. But once on the air, he calmed down.
"All the nervousness just went out of my body. I was like, ‘This is what’s supposed to be,’
As DJ on morning program on KTTI, a Country station, Walker sought to use the radio to engage his Yuma-area listeners in issues and events of importance to the community.
There was, for example, the time when a motorist in a nearby car flicked a cigarette butt in his direction as Walker was riding his motorcycle. Arriving at work, Walker took the microphone and relayed a message to that person and anyone else who had the habit of carelessly tossing cigarettes around.
"I said, ‘I don’t care if you smoke, just don’t throw your butts around.’"
The feedback he got from listeners demonstrated to him that his peeve was shared by a lot of other residents in the area.
Then there was the time about a week after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He announced on air that the first 100 people to stop by the station would receive ribbons in support of the victims of the attacks. The ribbons were quickly handed out, yet other listeners continued to come to the radio station to collect their ribbons. That, in turn, prompted other listeners to bring in ribbon material and safety pins to the station, so that anyone who wanted a ribbon could get one.
Walker was scheduled to be on the air from 6 to 10 a.m., but the interest that the ribbons generated prompted his shift to be extended two hours.
The ribbon giveaway demonstrated as much as anything how radio could be used as a "soapbox" to benefit the community. And over the years, he used the microphone to plug a variety of events and organizations, among them FFA chapters and the Bulldogs, Yuma’s former minor league baseball team.
In 2011, Walker joined Z Fun Factory, drawn, he said, by owners Brice and Becky Zeller’s commitment to providing a venue for family fun and entertainment. He serves as executive chef there while doing voice overs for KCYK AM 1400.
Walker and wife Samantha have two sons, Tylor and Joshua.
"I just want to give a lot of credit to my family, to my wife. She is strong." In the years that he spent long hours at the microphone, Walker said, "she didn’t get to see a lot of me. She deserves kudos."