November 26, 2012
Larry Zentz, fire inspector, to retire after 46 years with K-State
In 1963 there was a war brewing in Southeast Asia. The government was starting a buildup of troops in Vietnam and Larry Zentz decided to enlist in the U.S. Marines. After three years and four months, Zentz left the Marines with an honorable discharge. His dad, Raymond Zentz, was working at Kansas State University when Zentz made the journey from Marines to K-State. He started on the construction crew with the physical plant in August 1966.
Zentz’s career with fire safety began in 1968 when he became a fire and safety officer serving on old engine 51 with the campus fire department. The fire department worked out of the upper floor of the Power Plant. He served in that capacity until 1983 when the university reorganized and centralized all safety issues into one department, the department of public safety. Zentz’s title changed again to safety and security officer I. With the need for additional personnel to inspect emergency fire equipment, a supervisor position was developed and Zentz became a safety and security officer II in 1992.
Zentz further moved up in 2003 when his position was upgraded to fire prevention inspector. Finally in 2010, the fire prevention inspector classified position was recalled. At that time Zentz became a fire inspector under an unclassified job description.
Zentz was always a firefighter. He inspected what little emergency fire equipment the university had, primarily fire extinguishers and fire hoses. Adoption of the Life Safety Code by the Kansas fire marshal changed how the university did business and only added to Zentz's job. Those requirements changed over the years, and today Zentz and his staff perform inspections on the building fire alarms, smoke detectors, emergency lights, sprinkler systems and fire hydrants along with fire extinguishers. The one job that was dropped was being a firefighter. The university no longer provides its own fire protection services.
Noted events in Zentz’s career include the Friday the 13th fire that destroyed Nichols Gym in 1968. The campus fire department just could not keep up with the huge fire. When President George W. Bush gave his Landon Lecture, Zentz served on the security team in Bramlage Coliseum. Most of his years were spent inspecting emergency fire equipment. Zentz was proud to wear the fire inspector badge in 2004 when he was commissioned as a fire marshal by the Kansas fire marshal’s office. In 2007, Zentz received his 40-year service pin from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
To celebrate Zentz’s long career of 46 years and four months with Kansas State University, a retirement party will be at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, in the Sunflower Room at the K-State Union. The Division of Public Safety and the vice president for administration and finance welcome all old and new friends of Zentz for this grand celebration.