NCSL salutes Glenn Koepp, a giant in the redistricting field who died last year, and three dedicated staffers who retired: Sheron Violini, Rick DeLeon and Stephen Klein.
Deputy secretary for operations, California Senate
Sheron Violini’s interest in legislative work was sparked at a young age by the late California Assemblyman Eric Seastrand, who attended meetings of the 4-H Club Violini belonged to while growing up in rural Monterey County, California.
“Upon his suggestion, I attended the University of California, Davis and interned at the California State Capitol,” Violini says.
I was told it couldn’t be done. —Sheron Violini, on her role in creating California’s Senate Training Office
After graduating, she took a full-time job in the Assembly as an office assistant. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up because I enjoyed the pace as well as the people.”
She enjoyed the Legislature enough to spend 27 years there, earning a master’s degree in public history along the way. In her work for the nonpartisan administrative office of the Senate Rules Committee, she helped ensure that Senate events, social media and constituent outreach complied with the law and Senate policy. She also assisted with the organization of ceremonial events, including oath-of-office ceremonies and memorials.
The most rewarding moment of her career was the creation of the Senate Training Office in 2012 to deliver joint training programs with the Assembly. “I was told it couldn’t be done,” she says. The office grew to help staff during transitions by providing resume writing and interview skill seminars and a series of mental health workshops.
When she could provide a solution for members and staff, she says, it was a “win-win.”
Violini is the immediate past chair of NCSL’s Leadership Staff Professional Association.
Sergeant-at-arms, Texas Senate
Rick DeLeon prides himself on his ability to work with others, and his resume brims with evidence of his teamwork skills, beginning with his service in the Marine Corps. Later, he spent eight years as a recovery diver with the Texas Highway Patrol.
“We searched for evidence used in the commission of crimes,” he says, “but we also searched for and assisted flood victims and provided security well after the flooding.” DeLeon assisted in the search and recovery effort following the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia over the state in February 2003.
The position of sergeant-at-arms is not a profession one chooses as a career. Ultimately, this position chooses you. —Rick DeLeon
DeLeon then worked 15 years for the Texas Senate, mostly as the chamber’s sergeant-at-arms. The El Campo, Texas, native retired from that post last year.
“The position of sergeant-at-arms is not a profession one chooses as a career,” he says. “Ultimately, this position chooses you.” And, true enough, it seems someone had their eye on him. “I was serving on the governor’s protective detail when I was offered the opportunity to be the assistant sergeant-at-arms. Before that, I was a state trooper and had absolutely no knowledge of working in the Legislature. Glad it all worked out.”
DeLeon served as president of NCSL’s National Legislative Services and Security Association.
Chief fiscal officer, Joint Fiscal Office, Vermont General Assembly
When Stephen Klein retired as chief fiscal officer of the Vermont General Assembly last year, he’d long surpassed a trend established by his two immediate predecessors—both of whom died after being in the position for just a year.
Klein joined Vermont’s Joint Fiscal Office in 1992, coming from the Massachusetts Legislature, where he ran the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee. With a background steeped in political science, law and regional economics, he became Vermont’s CFO the following year. “I found the legislative role fit my skills and interests,” he says.
I found the legislative role fit my skills and interests. —Stephen Klein
Besides successfully managing two fiscal oversight programs, Klein is gratified by the many bills, budgets and fiscal policies he shepherded and helped put in place. Among his priorities: ensuring the state had strong reserves; using consensus forecasting; and maintaining positive relations between the branches on fiscal issues.
There’s also the Steven D. Gold Award he received in 2013 for his contributions to the fields of state and local finance and intergovernmental relations. The award is given annually by NCSL, the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, and the National Tax Association, in memory of Gold, a fiscal analyst and member of all three organizations, who died in 1996.
Personnel issues are among the greatest challenges any manager faces. “They impact people’s lives, and difficult decisions must be made,” Klein says. “While I am satisfied with those I made, they cost many hours of sleep!”
Klein served as president of the National Association of Legislative Fiscal Offices and as a member of NCSL’s Executive Committee.
In Memoriam: Glenn Koepp
Secretary, Louisiana Senate
Glenn Koepp wrote down three things he was grateful for every day. And when he retired in 2020 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.
It’s the greatest job in the world. —Glenn Koepp, in a speech the day he retired from the Louisiana statehouse
Koepp, who devoted his life to public service—particularly the complex world of redistricting—died from a heart attack on July 19 last year. 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.
Koepp was a member of NCSL’s American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries professional staff association; served on the NCSL Task Force on Reapportionment for more than three decades; and gave presentations at NCSL redistricting seminars over the years.