After 20 years, Wendy Chioji to leave WESH

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WESH veteran anchor Wendy Chioji — who celebrates her 20th anniversary with the station today — will leave Channel 2 at the end of the May sweeps. In a press release issued Thursday, WESH said Chioji’s decision to leave “was based on her personal interest in moving west and the opportunity to open a new business in Park City, Utah. She and two partners will launch a new Vision Quest cycling center in that city.”

 “It’s a bittersweet time for me,” said Chioji. “I have loved living in Central Florida for 20 years. I’ve also learned that life cycles have an ending, and it’s time to end my life cycle at WESH. I am forever grateful to Hearst-Argyle and WESH for the amazing two decades-long run here. It has allowed me to work with the most talented people in the business and live in one of the greatest cities on earth. I am excited about my new adventure.”

 It became apparent not too long ago that WESH was turning away from its iconic anchor when the station brought in Martha Sugalski to anchor the 11 p.m. news with Jim Payne. Despite WESH’s improved numbers at 11 p.m., Chioji remains popular.

 How popular? News of Chioji’s departure was among the top stories on the Web site, and a photo gallery of her career at WESH had more than 65,000 page views on the Sentinel Web site on Thursday. That’s really not surprising for someone who has been in viewers’ homes for 20 years, sharing personal information such as her battle with breast cancer.

 “Wendy is a class act,” said WESH 2 News Director Barbara Maushard. “She will be greatly missed in the WESH 2 newsroom and in homes all around Central Florida.”

 No decisions have been made regarding Chioji’s replacement or other anchor assignment changes at the station.

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