It’s 4 a.m. and Larry Billingslea is already in the boiler room checking campus temperatures and making sure no mechanical malfunctions have occurred during the previous night. The assistant director for engineering services in physical plant management (PPM) has followed this same routine for nearly the entire 30 years he has worked at Cal State Northridge.
His presence has brought smiles to many office workers across campus needing temperatures adjusted in their divisions.
“I’ve served under five physical plant management directors and three university presidents,” he recalled. “When I came to apply at the university, they were only hiring custodians and what I really wanted was to work as a maintenance mechanic.”
Offered a custodial position, Billingslea decided to take it and see if he could eventually transfer to a position more in keeping with his skill set. He worked as a custodian for exactly one year and then became a boiler plant technician. Eventually, he was promoted to building service engineer.
Responsible for answering complaints about the temperatures in the Oviatt Library, Jacaranda Hall and Bayramian Hall, Billingslea looks back on those years of service calls with fondness.
“In the process of fixing thermostats and other problems, I got to meet so many interesting people,” he said.
Billingslea was taking a management training course in Florida when the 1994 Northridge earthquake hit.
“I called in immediately,” he recalled. “I was told to stay and finish the course.”
Billingslea was shocked by the destruction that greeted his return to campus and still marvels at CSUN’s triumphant recovery from disaster.
In 1997, Billingslea was encouraged to apply for the position of the boiler plant’s chief engineer. He got the job. His new responsibilities included the supervision of 11 employees.
A few years later, he assumed the position of assistant director of engineering services in which he oversees the central plant and plumbing shop.
CSUN’s Valley Performing Arts Center is his new top priority.
“PPM staff members tour the site each week making sure everything is perfect,” he noted. “Oversight now will help us maintain the building once it’s finished.”
Billingslea and his wife, Sandra, share their Sylmar home with beloved boxer dog, Layla. When he retires, the couple plans to move back to Billingslea’s hometown of Mobile, Ala. He looks forward to spending his days hunting and fishing. In keeping with his mechanical prowess, he’s currently restoring a ’61 Chevrolet Impala convertible.
“Overall, it’s been a beautiful 30 years,” he said.
— Julia Venkateswaran