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Monday, February 01, 2021

Tom Koch retiring from abc13 KTRK

Tom Koch

Tom Koch is retiring from abc13 KTRK Houston anchor after 39 years with the station he announced this morning at the end of newscast. He will leave in May.

Tom Koch officially signs off VIDEO

“For nearly 40 years, I’ve been honored and humbled that so many people welcomed me into their homes every day,” Koch said in a statement emailed to “It’s been a dream come true for a small-town Wisconsin kid to be part of this incredible station and truly great city of Houston. But I’ve decided it’s time to step aside, turn off that early morning alarm and wake up to a new adventure.” 

The station tells me the week of May 24th, an on-air celebration featuring Koch and his many achievements will begin, with a final goodbye set for May 28, 2021.

And if you have watched the long-running popular anchor with his signature mustache, then you know he would probably appreciate the following:

"What do you get when you wake up on a workday and realize you ran out of coffee?

A depresso."

No longer will Koch have a 2:30am wake up, but I'm sure he will still bring his famous puns to the party.

 "Tom Koch is one of the finest morning anchormen and reporters in the country," former KTRK assistant news director and reporter Don Kobos told  "Tom and I arrived at KTRK at the same time and worked together for my 32 years.   He’s a consummate professional.  Houston news viewers will miss waking up to him in the morning.  Congratulations on a great career Tom."

Tom Koch joins abc13 KTRK

Koch and Live at 5 anchor Melanie Lawson both started at channel 13 on September 13, 1982.

"This is the longest I've ever held a job," Koch told Ken Hoffman back in 2019.  "If you had told me in 1982 that I would spend my career here in Houston, or anywhere in Texas, I would have bet the farm against you. Luckily, I didn't own a farm. But it's been a great ride with great people."

In 1987, Koch moved from reporting to anchoring Eyewitness News at 7am.  The ratings and number of morning newscast hours produced certainly have risen over the years.  Now Koch anchors from 4:30am to 7am.

And speaking of ratings, Koch has really succeeded in that area.  The old legend was at times in his career, you could take the Houston television news morning ratings of the other stations, add them together and not quite reach, what KTRK was pulling in!

In his morning anchor role, Koch has had co-anchors over the years such as Samica Knight (current co-anchor), Sharron Melton, Minerva Perez, Cheryle Keck and Gina Gaston.

But in earnest, Koch probably spent more time over the years with traffic anchor Don Nelson and weathercaster Doug Brown.  

Koch and Nelson were, in my opinion, one of the greatest duos in Houston TV news.  Their chemistry was great on-air and off.

"Don liked to joke that if you can't be great, sit next to it," Koch wrote in 2015 when Nelson retired. "For nearly 30 years, I have sat next to greatness and I will miss him dearly."

 With these two, you not only got news and traffic, but viewers were also invited into the AM party.  Basically, with the puns, jokes and ad-libs, Houstonians never knew what was going to happen next. 

"Once, when we were interviewing Mike Ditka about Viagra or drugs for ED, Ditka said there was a warning on them, that if something lasted longer than four hours, you should call your doctor," Koch told Hoffman in 2019. "Don, without missing a beat said, ‘I'd call everybody.’ We all laughed so hard, we had to throw it to a break. And it’s the only time in my career that I almost couldn't go on with the newscast because we kept laughing."

"Such a fabulous person, and one of the funniest people I’ve ever met," former abc13 KTRK anchor Katie McCall commented on my LinkedIn post about Koch.  "Working with Tom was an ab workout, because I laughed so much!"

Of course as fun of an on-air presence as Koch is, that should never over shadow his reporting chops. According to his bio, he has covered everything from a dozen national political conventions, the Pope's new election at the Vatican and the 90s oil boom in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan to NASA astronauts launching from Kazakhstan.

- NASA astronaut Scott Kelly watches Koch from space

On a personal note, I started working with Koch in 2001 when he started split-shifting the AM news and the new Eyewitness News at 4pm newscast alongside the recently returned Gina Gaston (later Ilona Carson).  

This meant for seven years or so until 2008, Koch was anchoring a two-and-a-half hour morning newscast, then returning for another round with the hour long 4pm show. Sometimes he would fill-in at 6pm for Dave Ward.

Even with the split shift, Koch has also anchored the station's live remotes from the annual Fourth of July Celebration Concert and Fireworks, Galveston Mardi Gras Parade, the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Parade (HLSR) and the Houston Marathon.

The latter landed him in Houston Marathon Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Koch has even finished the marathon.

Koch's Wisconsin early years in life and TV news

Koch has come a long way from his first gig hosting a cable show during college at the University of Wisconsin.  The bearded Koch's first guest was Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels. While Daniels was a great first guest for sure, Koch eventually met and interviewed Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

After college, Koch was an anchor for WAEO Rhinelander, Wisconsin and WBAY Green Bay, Wisconsin.

It was at WBAY, where Koch met his wife Brenda, who was also a reporter. They are both from around that area.  Brenda took a job at KSAT San Antonio as an anchor/reporter for a few years before joining Tom in Houston.  

The Koch's now have two grown daughters - Emily and Chelsea. 

"Tom Spotting" and the family's love of travel

One of the family's passions is world-wide travel.  

“We’ve met a lot of wonderful people this way, and it's very cool,” Tom told The Buzz Magazines in 2020. “And you know, we've learned this ourselves coming from small towns: Travel really broadens your vistas and kind of eliminates biases, your prejudices. It shows you that everybody's really after the same things in life. They say that travel leaves you speechless, but you come back, and you're a storyteller.”

Considering Koch is such a familiar face to Houstonians, the family jokes there will usually be "Tom Spotting" moments no matter the country.  

The family told Houston travel writer Tracy L. Barnett the first "Tom Spotting" happened in Machu Picchu after running into some Sugar Land viewers. Tom's famous face even got them a great tour of Beijing from some Katy oil and gas expats.

Travel will no doubt be in the Koch family's future. Tom has already been to 34 countries

Tom Koch after abc13 and television news

And if any anchor is prepared for retirement, my guess it would be Tom Koch.  Not only did he anchor, but he also has extensively reported on financial matters. As a young channel 13 producer in 2001 or so, I remember going to the front station desk to grab a guest that Koch was going to interview for the 4pm news - it was Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos! 

In the last few years Koch has also been officiating weddings.  Besides that, you'll find Koch around Bellaire, hosting all kind of community events where he is the town emcee!

Tom and Brenda are also both active in many Houston charitable efforts from the ESCAPE Family Resource Center and Joyful Toyful Fiesta to Casa de Esperanza.

While born in a small Wisconsin town, Koch got to Houston as fast as he could and never left - even though he could have.

"In 1984, a fledgling outfit called CNN called me about being the Dallas bureau chief," Koch told Hoffman.  "But the pay was about the same as I was making, our assistant news director didn't think CNN would last, and I just loved Houston, so I stayed. I also had offers later on to be an anchor in Cleveland, Austin, and one other market, but nothing seemed right or as good as Houston."

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