On her first day at KEYE, amid all the balloons and treats from co-workers eager to welcome her, Hema Mullur spotted a handwritten note on her desk.
"It was the sweetest card," she recalled. "It said, ‘You’re going to do great. The team here is the best.’ I can’t tell you how good that made me feel."
Hema Mullur is the new co-anchor of KEYE’s 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.
The note was left by Mullur’s predecessor, Judy Maggio, who retired from the station last month after 33 years in the news business. For the past 11 years, Maggio had anchored the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts on KEYE, the city’s CBS affiliate.
From the moment she was first hired, Mullur said, she knew following Maggio wouldn’t be easy. But, she said, she shares Maggio’s love of all things Austin and is eager to reconnect with the city she first fell for while attending the University of Texas.
"There’s a lot of weight on my shoulders, I realize that," Mullur said, "but I’m so excited."
Mullur grew up in North Texas and, after UT, worked at stations in Midland, El Paso and, most recently, Denver.
The gig in Denver, where Mullur spent the past three years, was pretty sweet — main anchor for the city’s Fox and CW affiliates. It was also in a much larger TV market. Denver ranks 17th on the Nielsen list, with stations there reaching about 1.6 million households, while Austin’s 700,000-plus TV households put it in 40th place.
Still, the spot here was too good to turn down.
"There were only a handful — maybe two or three — cities I would have even considered," she said. "Austin has always been on my short list. I’d always kind of watched the market, seeing what was going on."
KEYE, in particular, seemed like an appealing place to work, Mullur said. She now shares the anchor desk weeknights with Walt Maciborski, chief meteorologist Chikage Windler and sports director Bob Ballou.
"I’ve had my eye on them for a while," she said. "I love what this station is doing, holding people accountable. They’re really making a push."
Mullur’s familiarity with Austin — and Texas — played a key role in her hiring, KEYE news director Greg Turchetta said.
"Hema knows Austin and her intelligence really comes through," he said. "It was really important for us to get someone who understands the community and could jump right in."
In the short time she’s been away, Mullur said she’s shocked at how much Austin has changed.
"The growth is just incredible," she said. "The downtown skyline looks nothing like it did when I left. Austin isn’t just a college town anymore."
That growth — and the challenges that come with it — is one thing Mullur said she’s looking forward to reporting about in the coming months. She said she’s also fond of covering health issues and local and state politics.
"I’m excited to get out and have the opportunity to report," she said. "You’ll definitely see me around town. I think people appreciate seeing their anchors out there reporting."
Already, after barely a week on the air, the story ideas are piling up, Mullur said. So are suggestions for restaurants and other spots around town she plans to check out with her friends and co-workers. Coming back to Austin and joining the KEYE team was the right call, Mullur said.
"This is the friendliest place I’ve ever worked," she said. "Everybody is so warm and friendly. This is definitely where I want to be."