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Estherwood Mayor Donald "Don" Popp, Sr., left, died Wednesday at his home after a battle with cancer, village officials said. Popp was elected to lead the Acadia Parish village in 2018.

The Village of Estherwood is beginning the process to fill the leadership hole left by the death of Mayor Donald “Don” Popp, Sr. last week.

The Acadia Parish village’s mayor died at his home Dec. 9 after a yearslong battle with cancer. The 78-year-old was originally diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012, which later metastasized to his bones and lungs. Popp was elected mayor in 2018 and previously served two terms as a village alderman.

His funeral was Tuesday in Crowley.

The Estherwood Board of Alderman is holding a special meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. to appoint a replacement for Popp until a new mayor is selected through a special election in 2021. Popp’s term was slated to end Dec. 31, 2022, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office. 

Estherwood Clerk Floy Smith said Mayor Pro Tem Donna Bertrand is expected to be appointed to the interim seat. Bertrand is in her third term on the village’s Board of Alderman and served alongside Popp during his board tenure.

Bertrand said in a Wednesday phone interview she plans to accept the appointment if proposed Thursday and will send her resignation for the alderwoman’s seat to the Secretary of State’s Office by Friday, at which point the appointment will be effective. Next, the village must appoint an interim alderman to fill her seat and schedule a special election, in a process parallel to replacing Popp.

A letter from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office to the Village of Estherwood said the village has until Dec. 29 to call a special election for Popp’s seat. The state’s spring election dates are March 20 for the primary and April 24 for the general, with qualifying running from Jan. 20 to 22, the letter said.

The deadline to put items on the spring ballot is Dec. 23. The next available election is in the fall, with the primary on Oct. 9, the general on Nov. 13 and qualifying from July 14-16, the Secretary of State’s Office said.

Bertrand said the alderwomen are looking at the fall election as a more feasible option with the tight timeline. Having both items handled in one election makes the most sense to keep election administration costs down for the small municipality, Bertrand said. Separately, one alderwoman is currently caring for her hospitalized mother and arranging short-notice meetings with the three board members present is difficult right now, she said.

The board is required to wait until the Secretary of State accepts Bertrand’s resignation before making an appointment for her spot. That would leave only Monday and Tuesday to hold a second special meeting to call an election to fill Bertrand’s seat and have both items on the spring ballot.

“It’s a trying time,” Bertrand said.

The alderwoman said as of now she plans to pursue the mayoral seat in the fall election.

Popp is survived by his wife of 38 years, Priscilla, seven children and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren, his daughter Jodie Wilkerson said. Popp was a loving family leader who valued investing time in his relationships and was always willing to sacrifice for others, she said.

Smith and Estherwood Police Sgt. Emily Mire, also an alderwoman, said Popp was invested in improving the financial stability of Estherwood’s government and improving the quality of life in the village. He was compassionate, helpful and always willing to share knowledge and brainstorm with employees and colleagues, they said.

“Mr. Don, he was dedicated to the Lord and he was a servant; A servant to the Lord, a servant to his wife, a dedicated servant to his family and a servant to his village. All he ever wanted was the best for his village,” Smith said.

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