Al Ruechel is an original in many senses of the word. He is Bay News 9's senior anchor and has been with the 24-hour news channel from day one. To call him a fixture in Tampa Bay is an understatement.

He brings more than 44 years of experience, knowledge and perspective to the anchor desk, including 26 years as an anchor/reporter right here in the Bay area. His energy and enthusiasm can be seen in the afternoon on weekdays and at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday as the host of Political Connections.

Al is a graduate of Iowa State University and has worked in Des Moines, IA; Albany, NY; Ft. Myers, FL; and St. Louis, MO, as an anchor/reporter. He came to Tampa in 1986 and worked with then-ABC affiliate WTSP-TV, joining Bay News 9 when it launched in 1997.

During his career he has won four Emmy awards for breaking news and investigative reporting and more than 20 other state and national reporting and anchoring awards. His assignments have included presidential elections, the space program, the Persian Gulf War, medical advancements and Caribbean politics.

He has also produced and reported on nearly 1,000 websites and apps for his weekly Extra on the Web segments, offering reviews and helpful tips on successfully surfing the Internet. Viewers can catch those reports Sundays beginning at 5:23 p.m.

But those in the Bay area also know Al is a family man deeply committed to his community. He's coached youth soccer, both recreational and competitive, for more than 16 years. He's currently the worship leader at Grace Christian Fellowship, where he also composes and performs original Christian contemporary music.

He has volunteered more than 7,000 hours with Bay area schoolchildren and helping the Pinellas County school system with their TV interview programs for the past 26 years. He was a missionary to East Africa for two years, and currently serves on a number of advisory boards for local charities, St. Petersburg College, Hospice of the Florida Suncoast and other organizations

Al has been married to the love of his life, Jennifer, for 39 years. Jennifer manages the student counseling and academic advising center at St. Petersburg College. Their four children are all graduates of the Pinellas County school system and are all now working in the healthcare industry as doctors, therapists, and orthotics/prosthetics specialists. Al and Jenny have nine far.

Al also writes commentaries in his spare time and is working on two books he hopes to publish in the near future.