For Leland M. Stenehjem, being president of the Independent Bankers Association of America runs in the family.

When he is sworn in Wednesday, Mr. Stenehjem (pronounced "STEN-jem") will be following in the footsteps of his father, Leland Sr., who was IBAA president in 1964.

"I was raised on independent banking," said Mr. Stenehjem, who is also president of First International Bank and Trust of Fargo, N.D.

His resume of banking experience is nearly as varied as that of his father, who began his career more than 60 years ago cleaning spittoons and stoking the furnace in a bank.

Mr. Stenehjem is a banking lawyer who was North Dakota Banking Commissioner from 1981 to 1983. And - perhaps equally as important as his regulatory experience - he spent some of his formative years working on a farm.

"In our smaller communities, the whole town, including the bank, revolves around agriculture," Mr. Stenehjem said.

Indeed, because of his rural roots, the passing of the torch from outgoing president Richard Mount to Mr. Stenehjem could represent a slight shift in focus for the IBAA.

"Lee will take a different approach," said Kenneth A. Guenther, the group's executive vice president. "Dick Mount runs a very typical suburban bank in a very competitive market, while Lee's bank is much more connected to the agricultural economy."

Mr. Stenehjem has a "much greater awareness" of issues that affect agricultural banks, such as the competition they face from the Farm Credit System, Mr. Guenther added. Also at the top of Mr. Stenehjem's priority list: taxing credit unions and reducing regulatory burden.

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