SPOKANE, Wash.- Dan Kleckner has been the Inland Northwest's source of news and information for nearly 40 years, but on Thursday, October 14th, Dan is signing off for the last time.
Dan got his start on KHQ in 1985 as a sports anchor, but of course his story starts long before that. Kleck spent some of his young life in Chicago, and fell in love with sports there. In college, at the University of Redlands, Dan played football, and started crafting his plans to report on the sport later.
While attending graduate school at Cal State Fullerton, Dan met the current News Director at KHQ who happened to be a guest speaker at Fullerton. It was a chance meeting that would change Dan's broadcasting career forever.
First, though, Dan would begin his on-air career in 1983 at the NBC station in Palm Springs. One year later he was off to the NBC affiliate in Reno, NV. Just 5 months after that move Dean Mell came calling: would Dan be interested in working as KHQ's Sports Director? Dan agreed, believing at the time, that Spokane was a suburb of Seattle! He and his wife packed up their 9-month-old baby and 80-pound German Shepherd and headed north.
Dan's love of sports goes beyond his 12 years as KHQ Sports Director. As an Emmy-award winning Sports Anchor, Dan's sports anchoring career highlights include: Traveling with the Gonzaga Bulldogs when the Zags made their first NCAA appearance in 1995, carrying the Olympic Torch as the flame made its way across the country to Atlanta in 1996, and meeting his boyhood idol, Chicago Bears Hall-of-Famer Gale Sayers for a 6 Questions Interview. Other interviews with golf legend Jack Nicklaus and boxing great George Foreman are also at the top of the bucket list.
In the mid-90's KHQ's News Director at the time asked Dan to start anchoring the 4:30pm newscasts, while also anchoring his sports segments in the 5pm, the 6pm and 11pm newscast. Thus began the next chapter of Dan's career. In 1997, he was moved to the morning show, where he was paired up with a newly hired young woman named Stephanie Vigil. The two matched well, and they've been the region's preeminent anchor team for the last quarter century. In 2000, during an election that would ultimately become known as "the hanging chad" election, Dan and Steph started their careers anchoring the evening newscasts.
In 2013, Dan began a segment called Connect with Kleck, in which viewers could reach him directly and he would work to find them a solution to their problem or, at the least, an answer to their question. It proved to be extremely popular and within the year Dan was receiving dozens of emails a day. During the start of the COVID pandemic, people were able to connect with him to help them navigate the scary and confusing crisis. Dan and Steph both anchored from home at the beginning of the pandemic, allowing him to focus on helping viewers, and for every Connect with Kleck story that aired on the newscasts, there were a dozen people helped off-air that no one ever heard about.
Dan was inducted into the 2014 Silver Circle of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for broadcast excellence. The Silver Circle honors media professionals who began their careers in television at least 25 years ago, either in a performing, creative, technical or administrative role within the industry or in an area related to television such as TV journalism education, advertising, promotion, and public relations. They must also have made a significant contribution to the Northwest Chapter television for at least part of their 25-year career. The Northwest Chapter of NATAS has been honoring and celebrating Silver Circle members since 1991.
Over the past 11 year's Dan began a new passion: the Dan Kleckner Golf Classic. The annual golf tournament to support our local veterans has donated over $600,000 to numerous veterans charities. In addition, with the support of our community hundreds of veterans have enjoyed a free round of golf and a prime rib dinner as a way to say thank you for their service.
While Dan and Steph have been an on-air team for 25 years, Dan's "off-air" teammate, and mother of his three children, is his wife Donna. Dan and Donna have been married for 39 years. She was with him from the beginning of his career, and she is by his side as he says goodbye. Along with three grown children, they now also have six grandchildren.
As for retirement, Dan says he'll be focusing on his golf game, traveling and the grandkids! He also says he plans to continue Dan Kleckner's Golf Classic to support local veterans.