Zepeda and Hegarty families mix careers with familyWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When Andrew “Z” Zepeda first met his future wife, Michelle, he was about to cover her with ice cream.
He’d been working at a radio station in Green Bay, where Michelle was living with her family. “He had a contest, ‘What would you do for Matchbox 20 tickets?’ I didn’t really like the band, but my sister did,” Michelle said. “So, I e-mailed and said I’d become a human sundae. And I won!”
After dousing her with caramel, sprinkles, ketchup and other toppings, a relationship began to blossom.
“We kind of e-mailed back and forth a lot, we saw each other at the concert, she kind of stayed in touch and the rest is history,” Andrew said.
The pair, who have been together for 13 years and married for seven, now find themselves sharing a life spent largely on the airwaves. While Andrew hosts Toledo’s most popular morning radio show, Michelle has worked as a reporter for FOX Toledo since October of 2005.
Andrew’s career in media began first, during his brief (two weeks, he claimed) stay in college.
“One of the days that I was home ditching, because I didn’t feel like going, I saw a commercial for a broadcast school,” Andrew said. “I went and had the interview, and I think they accept everybody.”
His first radio gig was in Illinois, which for a kid from Los Angeles was a major culture shock. From there, the nomadic nature of media took hold — jobs in Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona followed — before he got his current gig at 92.5 KISS FM. This year, he celebrated his 20th year on the air.
For Michelle, the choice to be in media was directly influenced by her relationship with Andrew. She was a business major at first, then “being around him, being around TV folk and radio folk, I switched my major real quick so I could still graduate in four years, and I decided what to be,” she said.
Her career has largely been guided by the path that Andrew’s has taken, and where ever his job takes him, hers has followed.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate to find a job every time, but this was the best move, because when I moved here FOX Toledo had a job opening as soon as I got to town, and I’ve been a reporter there for five years.”
The demands of their jobs give the couple little time, between work and caring for their 3-year-old daughter, Mazie. Time spent together at the end of their respective days is at a premium.
“Usually, we’ll eat at the restaurant around 7 to 7:30, and then we get home around 8, put Mazie to bed by 9. We wind up getting basically an hour a night together,” Andrew said.
Then there’s raising a family in public, an issue only heightened by Andrew’s recent announcement (on-air, naturally) that the couple is expecting their second child. But Michelle insisted, “I don’t think it’s different than anyone else — we have preschool for [Mazie] and day care options, and I think we’re like any other working couple.”
Andrew added, “When Mazie was first born, I was doing stuff at FOX every day, so she was around the TV station and she was around the set, because I’d take her with me. And then she’s been around the radio station, so she’s comfortable with media. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what she ends up doing, although, God, I hope not!”
Though Michelle noted with a grin that there are benefits to being a spouse in the public eye.
“I think sometimes it helps me out having our life be a little more public, because I don’t feel so crazy, because people can see his crazy side and his argumentative side, so I actually have a lot of people who support me.”
Also grinning, Andrew interjected, “I just know 100 percent of the time what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Sara and Shaun Hegarty may be prominent members of Toledo media, but they often poke fun about how only one of them had formal training.
“I went to school for it!” Shaun joked. “I went to classes, and those tests … ”
“I went to classes! I took tests!” Sara quickly interjected.
“Yeah, but mine were for journalism and broadcasting,” he replied, with heavy sarcasm.
But despite their varying levels of experience, both halves of the famous couple take to the air on a daily basis — he as an anchor for FOX Toledo News, she as co-host for Andrew Z in the Morning, the area’s No. 1 morning FM radio show.
They first met in college, while going to Syracuse University. “We met at a floor meeting, but we didn’t become friends until a few months after that. And we didn‘t date until after we graduated,” Sara said.
The couple has now been married for four years, about as long as Shaun has worked for FOX Toledo. The nomadic nature of television news saw them living in Corpus Christi, Texas, before relocating to the Glass City.
“I started out as being a reporter, and then Karl Rundgren left, and I just kinda auditioned for the anchor gig,” Shaun said. “This is my first anchoring gig, and it’s been a lot of fun, I like the station, I like this town, so overall it’s been positive.”
Shaun’s broadcast career has been going on for much longer than Sara’s — he was even a regular on Andrew Z’s show first, broadcasting a daily news report. And it was their connection to the Zepeda family which helped Sara land her new gig.
“When Trish (Andrew’s former co-host) announced she was leaving, Andrew approached me about maybe trying out for the position, and I was really hesitant at first,” Sara said.
Conversations with Shaun helped change her mind, and her first tryout with Andrew went so well, Sara said, “Andrew called me and said, ‘You were good. We need to get you back here because I think it was a fluke.’ ”
More auditions won her the position that now monopolizes her mornings, and nowadays both the Hegartys’ schedules are “polar opposites,” said Sara — she’s up by 3:30 a.m. for the radio, and the first time the two speak is usually when he comes on the show for his news report.
For Shaun, the morning is spent doing “Dad duty” with the couple’s daughter Leah. Sara works at the studio all morning until “I get home around 12:30, 1 o’ clock. And that’s when I take off co-host hat and put on Mommy hat. And I’m just Mommy the rest of the day,” Sara said. Then it’s time for Shaun to head to the station. Since the two rarely get to see each other during the week, they both note how important it is to maximize the time they do get to be together.
Though they work in highly public media, the couple noted the contrast between their careers.
“Even though we do broadcasting, we do very different things. And I find it very interesting listening to her side of it, all the little things that go into it,” Shaun said.
“It’s all under the broadcasting umbrella, but I think that seeing her side of it is so very different than mine.”
And for the first time, Shaun and Sara are in a situation where bigger and better things in media may come one day, perhaps with little notice.
“I’d say I’m content with where we are right now. I think we are only going to get better, and things will only get better for us,” he said.
“I think, right now, I’m good!” Sara said.
“Yeah, but you could be better next week!” Shaun retorted, with a laugh.