For 36 years, Col. Mike Edmonson has known no other life than the Louisiana State Police.
As superintendent for the past nine years, he has called the agency's Baton Rouge headquarters home, an accommodation that kept him plugged in even during down time. And after announcing his retirement on Wednesday, Edmonson faces an uncertain future, removed from the spotlight and the demands of leading a sprawling law enforcement agency.
"I don't know what life will be without that," Edmonson told The Advocate in a lengthy interview. "I want to take a pause, look at my options in front of me."
Edmonson, 58, submitted a letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday saying his final day will be March 24. In the meantime, he will assist the governor in identifying an interim superintendent from the ranks of troopers.
While a number of controversies consumed Edmonson's final days as superintendent — U.S. Sen. John Kennedy recently called for his resignation — he insisted he has been considering retiring for as long as six to 10 months.
He's faced mounting pressure to step down in the wake of revelations that several troopers made thousands of dollars in overtime and charged state taxpayers for out-of-the-way stays at hotels in Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon as they drove to a law enforcement conference in San Diego. That trip has spawned at least three state investigations into State Police travel, including trips taken by Edmonson.
The FBI also has been investigating the Louisiana State Troopers Association, an inquiry that appears to focus on improper campaign contributions, among other things.
Edmonson acknowledged his continued leadership of the agency has become a distraction. But said he has no fear that any of the pending investigations would compromise him.
"There is nothing that I'm afraid of coming out," he said. "The truth is the truth, and those things will happen regardless. I'm very confident in my tenure as superintendent."
"This organization will survive anything," he added, "even the things yet to come."
He held a number of private conversations with Edwards in recent days, but he also has consulted family members and friends. He said he saw his father cry for the first time in his life earlier this week and knew at that moment that it was time to retire.
After news broke of his impending departure, Edmonson was inundated with messages of support. He had 161 unread text messages on his phone during Wednesday morning's interview, many of them from longtime friends and lawmen wishing him the best.
"I'm leaving with a clear conscience, an open heart and a clear mind," he said. "This is the right thing to do for my family, this organization and for Mike Edmonson."