AN AFTERNOON WITH MAXINE AND MILT KLEIN
Special thanks (once again) to Charlie Pohl for conducting and writing up this interview. Read on to learn more about Milt & Maxine's Legacy!
I interviewed Maxine and Milt Klein on a late September afternoon over lunch and later at their home in Star. Often parks and charitable organizations sponsored by couples often list the wife solely or first for reasons of which I am unclear. However, in the case of the Maxine and Milt Klein Idaho Society for Clinical Social Work Scholarship, it was dramatically clear: according to Milt, Maxine had earned it! Milt notes that as his office administrator at Interfaith Counseling Center where he was the primary therapist, “Maxine was responsible for all the organizational work and I couldn’t have done it without her.” Maxine, who is steeped in humility simply smilesand nods saying dismissively, “Oh!”
Asked to describe himself, Milt responds with a huge grin, “Hillbilly; not sure if that is one word or two!”. Milt was born in 1939 in Kansas City, Missouri and moved to Aurora, Missouri when he was ten where his father was a local pastor and lived on a farm; Maxine is from a small village seven miles away later first meeting in high school. He fondly remembers that his father had every August off and, leaving on the first and returning on the 31st, they traveled all over the U.S. noting that by the time he graduated high school, he had been to all but a handful of the states.
He still remembers his father’s core piece of advice, “Your word is all you got; you got nuthin’ else!”
He worked at a local juvenile correction center and after graduating Missouri State in 1961 with a degree in sociology and a minor in German (“I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life”), he attended Washington University in St Louis studying casework where he had a scholarship from the Institute for Juvenile Research (IJR). While he was at Washington University working on his MSW, Maxine had completed her RN in Springfield and worked as a nurse in St Louis. He then went to work for them in Peoria, Illinois where he worked for the next seven years, 4 years for the IJR, then in a community mental health center another 3 years.
In 1970, they moved to Pocatello where he worked in community mental health at the time when the State was working to develop a comprehensive state wide community mental health system being only the second state in the U.S. to do so! in 1973, the moved toTwin Falls where he was doing full time administrative work as Regional Director with H&W (ID H&W had just moved to a regional administrative system).
In 1976, he was appointed the Director of the Department of Health and Welfare and moved to Star where he and Maxine and their two daughters, Jennifer and Julie, enjoyed the rural lifestyle with which they had grown up, having horses and being able to walk out his back door to go hunting and fishing.
He notes two major challenges that quickly confronted him: the flood in Eastern Idaho when the Teton dam burst and then when Mt. St. Helens erupted causing ash fallout over Northern Idaho. He notes how hard the state employees worked to mitigate the effects of these two disasters. His other major job was “keeping the legislature funding things” that were important in taking care of the residents of Idaho.
In the late 70s the movement toward licensure for social workers was becoming a national trend and he was approached by the Clinical Social Work Federation (now Association) attending one of their conferences and joined later becoming their treasurer. They helped him line up the legislation for social work licensing which he participated in attaining social work licensure, an effort by many folks of which he was proud of his part, which included some key contacts in the legislature and other mental health groups. NASW did tons of work and put in a lot of hours along with other social workers as they all pressed hard for the clinical standards to be included in the legislation. He remains LCSW #1.
In 1981, Milt noted that he was losing his sense of humor working for the State in a high level office. When a legislator had attacked a bill to support the work of his Department and later told him it was nothing “personal” noting that parts of the bill “just made me mad”, Milt’s pithy reply was “you just wanted to be mad!” He knew it was time to move on. “The day I walked out of the Statehouse for the last time, it felt like someone had lifted 1000 lbs off my shoulders”. This was 1981. He decided to open a branch of the Interfaith Family Counseling Center where he remained in practice until retirement in 2004.
As he started this practice and remained active in the then Clinical Social Work Federation, he was encouraged to start a local society for clinical social workers and in 1993, began searching for like minded souls formally having the first meeting in 1994 and being the President from 1994 to 1998, remaining active until his retirement.. He notes with pride that this and attaining licensure for social work in the state were two of the most notable achievements in his social work career.
He enjoyed the meetings noting that when he was with the society members, “I felt like the Society was just like getting home.” He parts with the wish that clinical social workers in Idaho will come to feel the same way.
Milt & Maxine were honored at a reception and fundraiser in the Fall of 2023.