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story.lead_photo.caption Larry Kent

After growing up with a family turkey operation in Texas and graduating from Southwest Texas State, San Marcos, Texas, with a degree in agriculture business, Larry Kent interviewed with Cargill and was sent to California.

After 23 years at Cargill, as a flock supervisor then turkey breeder manager, Kent said he was ready for a change.

Kent joined Blankenship Insurance, now Spieler Insurance, in 2002, at the request of then-owner Duane Blankenship, to work specifically on farm accounts.

When Blankenship died in 2008, Kent bought the agency, started in 1963 by Eddie Blankenship, retaining the name. His wife, Kathy, joined him in the insurance business, after retiring from teaching school.

The most challenging time in his 16 years of insurance was about 2008, in response to the economic recession, he said.

"As a small business, it was a trying time," Kent said.

And the online competition has presented a more current challenge for the small, independent agency, he said. The local agents focus on getting to know the people and families they serve, he said.

In 2016, Aaron Spieler, a fellow insurance agent who grew up in California, presented an opportunity that allowed Kent to retire, again.

Kent sold the business, but stayed on for two years.

"As an independent agency, relationships are key," he said. "It takes time to work with various clients and learn the nuances of a community."

Now, he and Kathy will spend time traveling, visiting family — son Kevin and wife, Kim, and grandchildren Matthew and Noah, Lee's Summit; son Joe and his wife Melissa and grandchildren Cooper, Bryce, Conley and Ryan, Pleasant Hill; and son David, Columbia — and relaxing. They hope to visit France, where a exchange student they hosted many years ago still lives. And they'd like to take the grandchildren on a Disney cruise.

Kent said it's been fun to get to know hundreds of people more than he would have, if not in the insurance business.

"It's been rewarding to work in a small community, getting to know and help people," Kent said.