|Occupation||: News Anchor|
|Children||: Erika, Morgan and Bobby (twins)|
Channel 3, which first aired in 1954, is an ABC Network regional broadcasting system owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. Sinclair is one of the largest TV broadcasting companies in the United States and owns 65 stations in 39 markets. Channel 3's 1000 kW transmitter power allows for a massive viewing area which include sister-cities Mobile and Ft. Walton Beach. Coverage and programming reaches into the southern parts of Alabama and Mississippi as well as the Florida Panhandle. Pensacola TV station WFGX-35 is a sister station.
Solarski was born in Long Island, New York and was raised in upstate New York (near Montreal), Lake Placid and Burlington, Vermont. An avid ice hockey fan, he became an honor society member at Mount Assumption Institute high school and a member of the school's wrestling and golf teams. His love for hockey enabled him to see numerous Montreal Canadiens games near his hometown, although his favorite NHL team continues to be the New York Rangers.
He enrolled at the State University of New York (SUNY) and worked at a local restaurant while taking courses which would get him into law school. His interests in communications happened when he became a member of the school's Forensics Union, which is competitive debating. The debate team brought out his ability to argue, to which he excelled. His team would capture the New York Championships while at SUNY. He then switched his major to Mass Communications and worked part-time at the college radio station and then the campus television studio.
At some point during the intership, he was offered a position at WPTZ when a reporter left the station. Hired as a general assignment reporter for the station, his area included St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties; although on occasion he was sent to Montreal for several special-event stories.
While at WPTZ, Solarski was assigned events and news stories which generated out of the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in Franklin County, New York. The reservation is also known by its Mohawk name Akwesasne. He focused his reporting on the reservation's internal and external struggles with casino gambling. The reservation is situated on over 30,000 acres extending from New York State and into the Canadian providences of Quebec and Ontario.
The problems and controversy at the time of Solarski's tenure centered around the tribe's Warrior Society and various contemporary elected chiefs which supported gambling and bingo houses, while the longtime traditional chiefs opposed the actions. There was frequent violent clashes between various factions. He also reported on numerous raids which involved the New York State Troopers or the Canadian Mounties.
Gambling was adopted in the late 1980s. Currently there is the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino and the Mohawk Bingo Palace. These two enterprises along with other tribal businesses are currently one of the largest employers in Northern New York.
This led to a position as fill-in anchor and later was elevated to assignment editor and anchor in 1989. During his tenure with WPTZ, he won several Associated Press Awards for Spot News, Documentary, Special Programming, Continuing Coverage and Breaking News.
At the same time period, WPTZ and WEAR were both owned by Heritage Media.
Through the corporate grapevine, Solarski learned of the male anchor position in Pensacola and faxed WEAR TV-3 news director Peter Neumann an inquiry note. At the time, the anchor was Lance Sandstead. The GM at the station was Carl Leahy, who was also from Plattsburgh and had known Solarski for years. Ironically, Solarski had interviewed Leahy's wife Ros on occasion, who had been the head of a local Chamber of Commerce, for feature articles.
An interview was set-up and Solarski fell in love with the Gulf Coast. After a successful interview process, he flew back to New York. He was then offered the anchor position at WEAR, and subsequently turned it down. Neumann and Leahy asked him to think about the offer for a few days and after a family conference, it was decided that Pensacola would become a great relocation adventure. The Solarski's sold their house and moved to the Gulf Coast in March 1994.
The Face of Local News
Upon joining the WEAR-TV 3 news team in 1994, Solarski hosted "This Week with Bob Solarski" until 2006, as well as a live call-in show called "Extra" from 2003 to 2006. Among his fellow anchors has been the well-respected Sue Straughn and currently Mollye Barrows. He has received several Florida Associated Press Awards for his work, including Best Editorial Feature and News Magazine. He has interviewed politicians including former President Bill Clinton, Ross Perot, Mario Cuomo and other state and national figures.
Solarski notes that if he could interview three persons--alive or dead--that list would include Jesus, Thomas Jefferson, and Leonardo DaVinci. He also admires anyone willing to sacrifice their personal lives for leadership. John McCain, Clinton, General Norman Schwarzkopf, General Barry McCaffrey, Jack Kemp, Jim Jeffords, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Bob Dole, and Bishop John Ricard also stand out as people who left lasting impressions for the way they presented themselves, and the strength they exude.
As with any television station employee, Solarski was a mainstay in the coverage of the various hurricanes which made landfall in the Pensacola area, such as Opal and Erin (1995), Ivan (2004) and Dennis (2005). Ivan is listed as the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane in history. His continuous coverage of these hurricanes are some of his most vivid memories. Solarski, along with Straughn, was also a prominent news figurehead with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill crisis (also known as the BP oil spill) which plagued the entire Gulf Coast region in 2010. The spill caused extensive damage to local marine habitats and to the Gulf's fishing and tourism industries, in which Pensacola is so deeply entrenched.
A devoted family man, he lives in Gulf Breeze with his wife and children and enjoys cooking. His staple dishes include grilled chicken, steak, vegetable lo-mein, grilled fish sandwiches, fresh bearnaise sauce, sushi, and Vietnamese grilled shrimp or pork. He also plays guitar and has a favorite acoustic made in Canada called a Norman, which are famous for their premium tonewoods. He also owns a Gibson Blueshawk, Fender Stratocaster, Gibson SG, Takamine, and a Taylor acoustic which he houses in his office for picking between newscasts.
He also enjoys sports and include as his favorite teams the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and New York Giants (NFL), New York Mets and New York Yankees (MLB), New York Rangers (NHL), Pensacola Ice Flyers (SPHL), New York Knicks (NBA), and Pensacola Blue Wahoos (SL).
Other interests include golf, sailing and computing.