by Angie Kay Dilmore
As a child, Tom Hoefer loved sports, though he realized early on he was better at listening or watching sports than playing them. If there was a sporting event taking place, he and his brother were either watching it on TV or listening to the play-by-plays on the radio. Football, baseball, and hockey were their favorites. Hoefer (pronounced HAY-fer) idolized radio sports announcers and dreamed of becoming a radio sports broadcaster himself one day. It doesn’t happen often in life, but Hoefer made his childhood dream come true.
His first foray into the field of sports announcing came in his senior year of high school. He covered a girls’ basketball game for his classmates. Hoefer also worked at a radio station during high school in his hometown of Salem, Illinois. He says he did a little bit of everything at the station, from news and disc jockey to sports and production, gaining valuable experience that set the stage for a lifelong career. Hoefer attended Eastern Illinois University and graduated in 1985 with a degree in journalism. After briefly returning to Salem’s radio station, he moved to Selma, Alabama, where he served in a variety of roles at a station there.
Hoefer moved to Lake Charles in 1988 and worked at radio station LA99. There, he met Kaye Billeaudeaux, whom he married in 1992. He advanced his career at LA99, becoming program director and later sales manager. But in 1997, an opportunity arose that he couldn’t pass up. The Ice Pirates! Lake Charles’ very own indoor hockey team moved into the Civic Center and needed a radio announcer. Hoefer says he begged Thom Hager to let him do it, and it was great fun while it lasted. The franchise folded after four years on the ice.
In 2000, Hoefer was hired by KPLC, but something more life changing also happened that year. After a decade or more of bidding, LA99 finally won the contract to broadcast McNeese’s athletic games. And Hoefer was their man to do it. Hoefer is now in his 23rd year of announcing play-by-plays for McNeese games. He is currently under contract with McNeese and covers football on 92.9 The Lake.
Hoefer does have a day job, as well. He’s been with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury for 17 years and is currently their Director of Communications & Media. Thrive magazine recently spoke with Tom, and he shared his passion for sports, his enthusiasm for serving his community, and his pro tips on being a transplant in Southwest Louisiana.
I was a sports fan from a very young age. I had some favorite announcers I’d listen to – Jack Buck with the St. Louis Cardinals; Dan Kelly announced the hockey games for the St. Louis Blues. Bob Costas got his start with the Spirit of St. Louis basketball team. As a young person dreaming of becoming a radio guy, I patterned myself after these announcers. It was always radio – I was never interested in television, only radio.
George Swift, president/CEO at the Chamber SWLA, was the man who brought me to Louisiana. When I was working at the station in Selma, George stopped by to visit one day. He had been the general manager at that station prior to moving to Lake Charles. He eventually hired me to move to Lake Charles and work for him at LA99. He wanted me to get the McNeese games broadcast on that station. It took a while, but it happened. George is a good friend and mentor and I owe him a lot.
As many of you know, the Cowboy Stadium press box was destroyed in Hurricane Laura. We’ve been temporarily broadcasting play-byplays from the Cowboy Room at the south end of the field. It is definitely more difficult to do my job when I’m looking from the end zone instead of the side. But the new press box won’t be completed until sometime in 2023. I’m excited that my alma mater, Eastern Illinois University, plays McNeese at MSU this year. Of course, I’m rooting for the Pokes! And McNeese plays EIU at EIU in 2023. Can’t wait to go!
I joined the staff at the Police Jury in 2005, right before Hurricane Rita. My first job there was to manage C-GOV, their government TV channel. Years later, they added public relations to the position. The most rewarding times tend to also be the most difficult times. I helped with public information after Rita and of course the hurricanes in 2020. When people are desperate for information, they want to know what’s happening in their town, when will the power be restored . . . that is when I feel the most useful. It’s sweaty, and stressful, and difficult to be here, but those are the times I feel I have made a difference for people.
I collect old beer cans from the 1930s through 1960s. And I run. I used to run marathons – I ran 12 marathons between 2008 and 2014. Then I ran out of cartilage, which apparently you need! I still run 15-20 miles a week, just to keep in shape and stay sane. It’s cheaper than Prozac.
Learn how to pronounce boudin. Once you have boudin down, all the other Cajun words will be a lot easier. Enjoy and appreciate the local culture. It is unique and you won’t find it anywhere else. And . . . evacuate for hurricanes.