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Risk taker Lila Harstad follows her dream

By Staff | Sep 24, 2010

Lila Harstad, the owner of KZZJ Radio, is a risk taker.

A risk taker, by Harstad’s definition, has to be flexible and willing to do what is needed to get the job done.

After graduating from NDSU, she worked as a teacher, as a sales representative in both radio and newspaper, formed her own company, managed a radio station, and raised two children, Allison, 23, and Arron, 21.

After working in various jobs, she was hired as general manager of KZZJ by previous owner, Del Nygard. She has been the owner for the past almost eight years.

A few stations have couples as owners, but Harstad is the only woman, sole owner of a radio station in both North and South Dakota.

She bought the radio station in Rugby on January 1, 2003 after serving as its general manager for three years prior to that.

“I had worked in all aspects of the business,” said Harstad. So when Nygard came along with an offer to sell the station to her, she thought “why not?”

Now she does a little of everything, including payroll. She enjoys it all with one exception.

“I prefer not to be on the air,” she said.

She does go on the air from time to time though, so she has that experience along with everything else.


Harstad employs seven people: Bruce Allan, news director, D.J. Anderson, sports director and DJ, Dave Trottier, early morning show, Jerry Healy, sports, Cheryl Holm, account executive/receptionist etc., Jan Coca, secretary and Dee Dee Bischoff, secretary. Coca and Bischoff job share as secretary and it seems to work out well. Harstad is both general manager and owner.

She set some goals in 2003 when she purchased the station. She wanted to add a digital solid state transmitter and a 180′ tower. At that time, she said she looked forward to strengthening the ties in local news, weather and sporting events. Harstad has accomplished these goals and more in the past seven years. The new tower was built in 2003, the transmitter was added, and everything was computerized at the station.

Harstad’s radio station broadcasts at 1450 on the AM dial with one thousand watts of power, 24 hours a day. The business is located at 230 Hwy 2 SE in Rugby. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The phone number is 701-776-5254. web address: www.kzzj.com.

Local news, sports and weather are a priority. KZZJ serves area producers with several farm reports and market updates throughout the day. The station features programs such as Something You Should Know, Medical Edge, and Outdoor Issues. KZZJ’s music mix features top current country artists like Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in addition to country classics from George Jones, Alabama, Reba and others.

“What I like (about the radio business) is you are in on the pulse of the communities,” said Harstad. “I like to help the local businesses be successful which helps Rugby grow.”

Looking back with the knowledge of how much work being an owner of a radio station is, would she do it again? “Yes, it’s a good fit,” Harstad responded, enthusiastically.


KZZJ was established by the late Judge Ray Friedrich of Rugby in 1959. Together with a group of community leaders, he sold shares in the business and began broadcasting from a small building adjacent to the present building, which is located south of Rugby on Highway 2.

In 1993, a 1300 square-foot building was constructed with all new broadcasting equipment, office equipment and a main studio and production studio. A cement floor was poured in the lower level of the building in 2003, as part of Lila Harstad’s plan to utilize as possible conference meeting rooms. Harstad added a new transmitter and a 180′ tower when she took ownership in January of 2003. Both the new and old transmitters have been put in the lower level.

Harstad also computerized the whole office which has added to the efficiency of the operation.

In 2003, Harstad credited the Rugby Economic Development Director Gary Satern, George Youngerman, North Dakota Small Business Development Center and Wes Black, Bremer Bank, Rugby, as being instrumental in putting this project together and making a dream come true for her.

Story and Photos by Terri Kelly Barta

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