Posted: July 20, 2005

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

Joseph Opatz, associate vice president for academic affairs at St. Cloud State University and a state representative from St. Cloud, was appointed interim president of Central Lakes College on Wednesday by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees.

Opatz will become the interim president beginning Saturday. Opatz has represented the St. Cloud area in the Minnesota House of Representatives since 1993. He replaces President Joseph C. Birmingham, who is resigning to become president of Weatherford College in Weatherford, Texas.

"The appointment of this knowledgeable and accomplished academic leader will keep Central Lakes College moving forward. Interim presidents are not caretakers. He brings a lot of talent and energy to this position," said Chancellor James H. McCormick, who recommended the appointment.

"He is familiar to those who frequent the halls of the Capitol, but Joe Opatz is also known for his scholarship on creating healthy organizational cultures," McCormick said.

For the past year, Opatz has served as executive dean at Anoka-Ramsey Community College and before that as interim dean for educational services at Anoka-Ramsey from November 2003 to June 2004. He also was associate vice president for academic affairs at St. Cloud University beginning in June 2001 and was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Educational Policy and Administration at the University of Minnesota from June 2001 to February 2002. Previously, he had served in several administrative positions at St. Cloud State, including special assistant to the president from 1994 to 2001.

He earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from St. Cloud State University, a master's degree in education from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio and a Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Minnesota.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to continue to serve public higher education in the north central region of the state at Central Lakes College," Opatz said. "I look forward to working closely with faculty, students and the communities of Staples, Brainerd and the surrounding region."

Opatz said he intends to resign his legislative seat in time to assure his successor can participate in the 2006 legislative session.

A search committee will be formed to begin the process of seeking Birmingham's replacement. Under Board of Trustee policy, interim presidents can not be considered for the permanent presidency.