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MPR host Gary Eichten retiring

Gary Eichten is retiring after four decades with MPR.

Gary Eichten is retiring after four decades with MPR.

Gary Eichten, whose soothing tones and pleasant disposition have eased -- not to mention informed -- a lot of mid-morning drives, is retiring from Minnesota Public Radio.

Eichten made the announcement to MPR staff this morning, and then announced it publicly during "Midday."

True to form, Eichten made sure he wasn't the story.

"Good morning, welcome to Midday on Minnesota Public Radio news, I'm Gary Eichten," he said, opening the broadcast. "Big news out of Libya today, it looks like Muammar Qaddafi has been ousted as Libya's dictatorial leader."

Only at the end of the show did Eichten announce to listeners that he'd be leaving MPR in January, after more than 40 years on the air.

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Eichten, left, with Bob Potter, began as a student broadcaster with MPR in the 1960s.

Eichten, left, with Bob Potter, began as a student broadcaster with MPR in the 1960s.

Eichten has hosted live and special events coverage for MPR, including moderating debates among candidates for governor. But many will know him as the plate-spinner who somehow manages to take call-ins from just about anyone and turn them into relevant questions for expert guests.

Eichten started with MPR as a student broadcaster on KSJR, MPR's first station, in the late 1960s. In the four decades since, he's filled a variety of spots on the staff, including news director.

"I've been tremendously lucky to work with such a top-tier news organization for virtually my entire career," Eichten said in a news release.

Eichten has contributed to two Peabody Award-winning documentaries, according to his MPR biography.  In the press release announcing his departure, MPR president and CEO Jon McTaggart praised Eichten's talent for conversation.

"No one," McTaggart said, "is better than Gary at facilitating civil, intelligent and insightful debate on difficult policy issues between candidates across the political spectrum."

MPR News' Tom Scheck tweeted about Eichten's retirement announcement to the news room. Eichten told the assembled employees that he'd met his wife and his best friends at MPR.

When he received a standing ovation from others at MPR, Eichten joked, "I didn't know you wanted me to leave so badly."

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