Glenn Koepp wrote down three things he was grateful for every day. And when he retired last year after nearly 50 years in different roles in the Louisiana Statehouse, one of the things he listed was his job.
“It’s the greatest job in the world,” he said in a speech to the Senate on the day he retired as its secretary.
Koepp, who devoted his life to public service—particularly the complex world of redistricting—died from a heart attack on July 19. He was 76.
At the time of his death, he had just attended NCSL’s redistricting seminar in Salt Lake City and was visiting his son in Colorado. Family, friends and colleagues all describe Koepp as someone who was unfailingly upbeat, full of passion about his family and his work as Senate secretary and other roles in the Louisiana Statehouse.
And it was through that job that Koepp became an expert on redistricting, eventually writing four redistricting plans for Louisiana, serving as a special master in two court cases and advising officials on redistricting in other states.
Patricia Lowrey-Dufour, Louisiana’s senior legislative analyst, says Koepp hired her as a student in 1985 to work at the Louisiana Statehouse. Lowrey says he lit up when it came to redistricting.
“I called it his redistricting jazz hands,” Lowrey says, describing him as vividly animated by the subject.
Koepp was a member of the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries, an association within NCSL; served on the NCSL Task Force on Reapportionment for more than three decades; and gave presentations at NCSL redistricting seminars over the years.
NCSL Executive Director Tim Storey worked with Koepp for more than 30 years.
“I remember meeting him very early in my career. Glenn was very kind and helpful to me as a greenhorn new staffer,” Storey says. “He was always extremely generous with his vast expertise and willing to help anyone trying to learn about legislatures or redistricting. He was always jovial to the max and simply a ton of fun to be around.”
‘Friend and Mentor’
Koepp’s counterparts in other statehouses valued how generous he was in helping them.
“Glenn Koepp was the friend and mentor that we all hope to be lucky enough to find in our careers,” says Tammy Wright, clerk of the New Hampshire Senate. “Throughout my career, Glenn was always an unfaltering source of support, empathy and guidance. I always knew I could rely on his expertise, his wisdom and, most of all, his friendship.”
Pat Harris, the Alabama Senate secretary, says Koepp was an expert in all facets of legislative administration and was instrumental in guiding Alabama’s legislative staff as they sought to integrate computers into the legislative process.
Koepp also taught them something else.
“Glenn was the first to teach me and others in Alabama how to deep-fry a turkey, long before that bayou tradition made its way around the world on the internet,” Harris says.
Koepp loved his home state and the traditions he grew up with on a farm in Washington Parish near Bogalusa. He loved to fish and hunt. A Senate resolution upon his retirement noted he was a “storyteller without equal” and praised his work managing the work of the Senate for so many years with his “easygoing demeanor.”
Butch Speer can attest to that. Speer started at the Louisiana House the same day Koepp did in 1972, and the two men retired on the same day 47 years later. Their friendship developed especially through their work shepherding redistricting through the House and Senate chambers over the years.
Speer says Koepp was sanguine about the rough-and-tumble of politics.
“He was always on an even keel,” he says. “That’s kind of person he was, because he was always looking for the positive and could see the positive.”
In his retirement speech in January 2020, Koepp noted that, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” a saying popularized by John Lennon.
“I will tell you that applies to me probably more than any other statement,” Koepp said. He went on to describe the twists and turns of his career—always planning one thing but instead another opportunity, usually with the Legislature, would come up instead.
“I don’t know what’s coming next, I’m busy making plans to retire,” Koepp said. “But all my busy planning has never really worked out too good. My life has. I’ve had a wonderful life. I love it, I love what I do.”
And he couldn’t resist ending with a pitch for more redistricting work. “I just hope you all will call me back to do redistricting with you. I love doing that.”
Koepp was hired after retirement to help Senate President Page Cortez with redistricting work for the upcoming special session planned in early 2022.
“He leaves behind a legacy of dedicated public service and a genuine understanding and respect of the legislative process in the state of Louisiana,” Cortez said in a statement.
Storey noted that Koepp’s impact goes well beyond his home state, adding, “He will be sincerely missed by legislative colleagues from everywhere in the United States who had the true honor of getting to know him.”
Kelley Griffin is a writer and editor in NCSL’s Communications Division.