Holly Ketz

If it weren’t for 27 cents, the University of Minnesota may have lost out on a chance to hire one of its highly regarded plumbers. Holly Ketz came to the university three years ago after her employer’s offer fell 27 cents short of the required union raise.

“I was really happy to come here,” said Ketz. “Everybody that’s worked here has liked it, and it’s a really good place to work. Everybody really cares about each other and gets along here.”

Ketz’s career as a plumber began in 1984 when she quit her job at a law firm to pursue a plumbing certificate from the Dunwoody Industrial Institute. She had taken a civil service test that determined she had a high mechanical aptitude. So, she decided to give plumbing a try.

After five years of schooling and apprenticeship through Dunwoody, Ketz got her licenses and became a journeyman in 1989. She passed her master’s test in 1992.

While Ketz has noticed a rise in the number of female trades workers since she got her start, she says that there still aren’t many female plumbers around. Even so, she has never had many problems fitting in.

“At first, everybody wants to see what you can do,” she says. “Once they know you can do the job, then it’s just fine. I just did my job and would never say, ‘I can’t do it.’”

Ketz lives in Andover with her husband, Joe Barnhorn, who’s a sporting goods sales rep. While her husband is an avid hunter, even hunting in Africa, Ketz is content shooting clays with him in their spare time. She also enjoys gardening, working in her yard and spending time with her three daughters.

Her daughter Krystal, 25, is a nurse; Kandi, 24, is a restaurant server; and Kristina, 20, is a business banker. Kristina’s son Trey, 2, is Ketz’s first grandchild.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, it seems, as Ketz wanted to be a nurse when she was a child, but wasn’t ready to go to school like her daughter Krystal did. But when she started to work at the law firm, she knew that wasn’t what she wanted to do, and discovered her mechanical skills.

Ketz says that most people don’t realize how much customer service is involved in the plumbing trade. Working for different customers, you have to be friendly and helpful, in addition to skilled.

“I Love (Health Sciences) district,” she says. “It’s just like a family and everybody works together. That’s why I love being here. We’re not individuals here, we’re a team.”

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Holly Ketz


Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Hobbies: Shooting Clays, Gardening