LIVINGSTON — School system administrators and teachers, as well as community leaders from throughout the parish, stopped in the Livingston Parish School Board chambers the afternoon of May 22 to deliver well wishes to outgoing Superintendent Rick Wentzel.

Newly appointed Superintendent Joe Murphy commended Wentzel on his accomplishments and leadership, and he invited others in attendance to share words of tribute, including former board members and past superintendents.

“This school system is stronger today because of Rick Wentzel’s leadership and undying passion for the children of our parish. He led us through the district’s most challenging crisis — the devastating flood of 2016 — and today our district is stronger and even more committed to providing a quality education to all our students in safe learning environments across our parish,” Murphy said.

Wentzel began his term as superintendent July 1, 2016, just over a month before the flooding occurred. He was awarded a four-year contract but opted not to complete the last year on his agreement.

He served 33 years in education, with 25 of those years in the Livingston Parish public school system. He began his teaching career at Live Oak High School, where he was a teacher and basketball coach.

He taught in East Baton Rouge Parish for eight years before returning to Livingston Parish to work as an assistant principal at Southside Junior High, principal at Springfield High School and then Walker Junior High, before advancing to the district’s central office. Wentzel was named human resources supervisor for the district in 2008, then served three years as assistant superintendent before receiving the top job in 2016.

Wentzel is a native of Pickering. He earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and a master’s degree in educational administration from Southeastern Louisiana University. He also holds 30-plus hours in advanced educational administration and superintendent certification with the State Department of Education.

“Mr. Wentzel and I go back to the time that he was hired into this system,” said state Rep. Rogers Pope, who is a retired Livingston Parish school superintendent, administrator and teacher. “I was assistant superintendent at that time in charge of human resources. I knew he was a good hire at that time, and since then, he has gone on to do a good job, to become a good friend and to do what’s been needed to elevate our system to a higher level.”

“When Mr. Wentzel came in as superintendent, he came in with a goal to build relationships,” Assistant Superintendent Stephen Parrill said. “That focus on establishing and nurturing relationships is what carried us through the flood and has sustained us in the long, tedious months after.”

Many of Wentzel’s family members were on hand for the celebration, including his youngest grandson, Liam Booth, who sprinted to him as he began addressing the crowd.

“This is what my job has been about — the future of my children and all the children of Livingston Parish,” he said.

“I will miss the close friendships I have made with so many of you, and I will miss the work because I have loved my job. But I do have every intention of enjoying my retirement and spending more time with my family,” Wentzel said, noting that he and his wife have already planned a vacation to Hawaii for this summer.