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Detroit Lakes psychologist appointed by governor to state regulatory board

After about nine months of not knowing, things turned around for Jeff Leichter, and he was appointed to the state's psychology board within about a week's time.

"I am humbled by this honor. I never thought just throwing my hat in the ring would amount to being selected," he said.

It all started years ago when he joined a mailing list to receive state updates and notices.

"On the Secretary of State website, I am alerted to public board announcements," he said. "Gosh, I've been on that list for a long time."

So last fall, he read about some openings on the state psychology board and sent off his resume in October. After not hearing back for a period of time, he forgot all about the position and "figured it went to someone else."

Then two weeks ago Leichter got a call out of the blue at his office at MeritCare in Detroit Lakes. He learned that he was one of the finalists for the governor-appointed board.

"I was pretty blown away by that," he said.

A guy with the governor's office called him soon after for what ended up being a "totally off the cuff" phone interview, which he figured "was a deal buster because I was unprepared."

The following week, he received an e-mail that he had been chosen for an opening. Others chosen included Patricia Orud of St. Paul, and Patricia Stankovitch of Eden Prairie.

Chris Bonnell of Buffalo, and Margaret Alyssa Fulton of St. Paul were both re-appointed as well. There are 11 members on the board.

"Wow, that's pretty cool," he said of his reaction to being appointed.

"I'm looking forward to how these things function on the state level."

The purpose of the Board of Psychology is to regulate and license psychologists throughout the state, to monitor them, take on any complaints and make sure psychologists are following ethical guidelines.

Meetings are held once a month in the Twin Cities, and Leichter's four-year term ends January 2014.

"I was thinking last night, 'I'm going to make about 40 trips to St. Paul and back,'" Leichter said.

That's a lot of driving, but his appointment shows representation for outstate Minnesota. He said he felt the board has been "metro centric," with most of the appointees being from the Twin Cities area.

"They needed a representation of this profession outside of the Twin Cities," he said.

After his four years is up, Leichter will have to reflect on the past term to decide whether he wants to try for reappointment or not.

"We'll see how the drive is back and forth before I decide if I re-up again," he said. "Everyone serves at the will of the governor."

So why did he become a psychologist to begin with?

"The standard answer -- I want to help people. It's kind of corny," he said with a laugh.

He added that people's behaviors intrigue him, and he enjoys helping people get through tough times.

Before moving to Detroit Lakes in 1990, Leichter was living in southern California. Many people have asked -- including himself -- how a California resident ends up in Detroit Lakes.

"There was a job opening -- nothing more exciting than that," he said.

Leichter did interview for the job in August, which would explain a bit, but he's gotten used to the difference in weather.

"It's a great opportunity and a great community to raise my children in. It just stuck," he said.

Besides his job with MeritCare, Leichter also serves as the clinical director with the Minnesota Consortium for Advanced Rural Psychological Training. He has served as an adjunct assistant professor at St. Mary's University in Minneapolis, and his undergraduate, graduate and internship accreditations come from schools and hospitals in California.

"It's the next step in my evolution as a psychologist," he said of being appointed to the state board.