Glenn Koepp provided the soundtrack for the Louisiana Senate.
He also served as its conductor and parliamentarian during the 16 years ending in 2020 that he was the Senate Secretary.
He performed a vital role inside the State Capitol, even if he was unknown to the public.
Koepp died on Monday of a massive heart attack while visiting a son in Colorado. He was 76 years old.
Koepp’s rich baritone voice, inflected with rural Washington Parish, was familiar to anyone who spent time in the marble Senate chamber, and it will remain so for historians and others who view the Senate’s archived broadcast videos from 2004-19.
Koepp sat in the middle of the dais that faced senators, with a full head of white hair and an ever-present smile on his face. His body would shake when he laughed, and that was often.
It was Koepp’s role to introduce each bill, which he did by leaning toward the microphone in front of him.
“A message from the House,” Koepp might intone. Or: “Senate Concurrent Resolution on second reading, Number 79, by Senator Long.”
His voice provided the play-by-play for what the Senate was about to do. If the Senate was in a hurry, he’d adopt his auctioneer’s voice and read off the bills rapid-fire.
But that was only one of his roles.
Koepp also managed the flow of paper from the committees to the full Senate and over to the House and back, sometimes.
“He was the guy we relied on to keep the train on the tracks and legislation moved through the process legally and procedurally,” said John Alario, who worked closely with Koepp during his two terms as Senate president.
Alario and his two predecessors, Donald “Doc” Hines and Joel Chaisson, also depended on Koepp to settle questions that arose involving the rules.
Koepp assumed an additional role every 10 years by helping steer the Senate through the reapportionment process as its in-house expert.
Although retired as secretary, Koepp was working for the Senate lately as a contract employee to assist with the upcoming redistricting legislative session, where lawmakers will have to draw the new boundaries.
“He’d put the pieces together,” said Chaisson, who went through reapportionment with Koepp 10 years ago. “He knew it inside and out.”
During his 47 years in the Capitol, Koepp became friends with the lawmakers he served.
“Every time I’d get sick, he’d call,” recalled former Sen. Robert Adley. “He’d be in Baton Rouge. I’d be in Bossier (Parish). He’d say, ‘I’m on my way.’”
Koepp, who grew up on a farm outside of Bogalusa, got his start with the state when he and his roommate from LSU Law School hitchhiked to the Capitol to look for a summer job in 1972.
“I had hair down to my shoulders and had a full beard,” Koepp remembered as he addressed the Senate chamber in a farewell speech on May 30, 2019.
He was hired as an assistant House Sergeant at Arms at $30 per day for 60 days.
“That’s more money than I ever thought there was,” he told senators and others.
Koepp served in a variety of positions in the State Capitol in the following years. During one stint, he served as the counsel for the House Retirement Committee and its chairman, Shady Wall, who liked to pack a pistol in his boot holster.
The Senate resolution that honored Koepp in 2019 called Wall “an influential force of nature, who fired Glenn every other day; however, Glenn handled him carefully, learned to draft amendments ‘on the fly’ and completed a research project on retirement systems.”
Koepp was elected by the Senate to be its secretary in 2004 and in all worked with seven governors.
“Glenn Koepp’s genuine kindness, inquisitive nature and spirit of adventure were as unmatched as his expertise and knowledge of the Louisiana Legislature,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement.
Koepp is survived by his wife Anna and two sons, Cooper and Daniel.
As Koepp stepped toward the Senate podium to give his goodbye speech in 2019, a Senate clerk handed him two tissues.
“Save some for me,” Alario called out from the dais.
Koepp began by saying, “I’m grateful for the greatest job in the world, this job.”
Over the next 30 minutes, as he told his story, he repeatedly dabbed at his eyes. Senators lined up to hug him afterward. Over the next several minutes, a live microphone captured Koepp’s distinctive laugh, him repeatedly saying “thank you” and the sound of senators clapping him heartily on the back.