MANTI—Doug Barton, lifelong Manti resident and founder of the KMTI family of radio stations, and his wife, Marianne, will be honored as co-grand marshals of Manti’s Christmas Light Parade on Friday.
Barton is a widely recognized figure about town. Asked how he made it from farmer’s kid to owner of a network of radio stations, Barton said he could barely believe it himself.
“I grew up herding my father’s sheep and thought I never wanted to do anything else,” he said.
But while in high school, he was bitten by a love of electronics, and at 14, he built his own radio station in his family’s basement.
“It only covered about half of Manti,” Barton said, “and was only on from 3 in the afternoon until 6 in the evening.” He and three school friends ran everything.
After he left for college, the high school bought his little station and continued operating it for several years. Barton attended Snow College and BYU.
After graduation, he became a teacher in the broadcasting program at BYU. But he didn’t care for what he called “the big city.” When he told his professors he was leaving BYU to start a “for-real” radio station, KMTI, in the wilds of Central Utah, they told him he wouldn’t succeed.
According to Barton, they told him, “The market’s too small.”
In May of 1976, he went to work and with his own hands built the building and much of the equipment needed to get on the air. KMTI Radio was born, and Barton has never looked back.
Today he owns nine stations spread from Richfield to Heber City. His stations can be heard in more than half the state.
He says that one of the best decisions he made, at age 28, was to marry a girl from St. George named Marianne MacArthur. He was about six years older than her, and she told him, “Wow, you’re old.”
But while he built radio stations, she earned her nursing degree and nurtured their family of eight children, which grew to include their 18 grandchildren. Six of their eight remain in the Sanpete Valley, and Marianne says one more will return this coming year.
Marianne considers herself a true Manti-ite now. She said that when she first arrived, Manti was a bustling place with a thriving downtown.
She said it’s been sad to see the decline in the downtown area, but she believes things are coming back. She thinks the most important thing is for citizens to get behind the local businesses and work with them to help the community thrive.
As busy as she and Doug have been, she continues with her medical career, working for a doctor’s office in Gunnison.
Asked what he sees in the future for Manti, Doug said, “Growth, lots of growth. It’s amazing how much business is developing in the area.’’ He sees Manti becoming a destination city for people escaping California and other high-cost, high-tax areas. “I just hope they don’t try to bring their big-city ideas here,” he said.