City's longest serving fire chief Grorud to retire
If you go
What: Retirement celebration for Janesville Fire Chief Larry Grorud
When: 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, with comments and recognitions at 3 p.m.
Where: Rotary Botanical Gardens, 1455 Palmer Drive, Janesville.
JANESVILLE As a boy, Larry Grorud never dreamed of becoming a firefighter let alone a fire chief.
But good fortune led him to be both, he said.
After 37 years in the Janesville Fire Department, Grorud's official date of retirement as fire chief will be Dec. 31. His last day on the job is Friday, Nov. 12, his 60th birthday.
"It's time for others to take over. I'm happy to be going because the department is in great shape, but I know I'm going to miss it. It's been a great career. It's nice to be able to step aside with everything going well."
Becoming a firefighter started as a backup plan, Grorud said.
He was working at General Motors and had plans to move up in the company. He was scheduled to attend foreman's school, but when the economy slowed in 1973, there was talk of having to lay off a shift, including his.
When his father-in-law, Les Braun, who was a firefighter, told him the Janesville Fire Department was hiring, Grorud—after lengthy deliberation with his wife, Donna—applied to have a backup plan.
He hoped just to make the hiring list, but he did so well during the recruitment process that he was offered a job right away. Even though the new job was a cut in pay, Grorud opted for the more secure job of public service.
He said he has no regrets.
"This city has been good to me. I'm surrounded by great people and have had the good fortune of opportunities," he said.
After only nine months on the job, Grorud became part of the first paramedic team to hit the streets in Janesville. While walking door-to-door to raise money for the new program, a woman emptied the contents of her child's piggy bank into Grorud's fire boot. It left a lasting impression.
"That lady's commitment and support made me realize I needed to do everything to make the program successful," he said.
By 1984, Grorud was appointed deputy chief and in 1989 was promoted to chief. He would become the longest-serving fire chief in city history.
As he moved up through the ranks, Grorud said he missed the instant gratification firefighters and paramedics get on the job. New gratification came from helping firefighters and paramedics deliver the best service possible, he said.
Grorud said the success of his career has been based on two mantras:
-- Don't be afraid to make a mistake if you learn from it.
-- There's a difference between doing the right thing and doing things right. When given the choice, always do the right thing.
Among his most influential mentors were two former fire chiefs—the late Alex Andreski and the late Art Stearns. Grorud admitted he still misses both of them deeply and is proud to have followed them into the chief's office.
Although Grorud's list of accomplishments are long, including acquiring grants to start the level B hazardous materials response team for Rock County, he said his biggest accomplishment has been "just doing my job."
The people Grorud met during his career brought him the most joy, he said.
His least favorite part of the job was responding to paramedic calls involving children.
"They were always the toughest to deal with," he said.
Grorud was compelled to get involved in fire associations and was awarded the highest membership in the International Institute of Fire Engineers. He also served as president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Soon, mementoes and memorabilia from around the world will be gone from Grorud's office and the glass display case in the department's lobby.
Jim Jensen will sit in the chief's chair behind the 1940s-era desk.
Retirement, initially, will allow Grorud more time to spend with family—especially grandchildren—before tackling neglected projects around the house and doing some traveling.