Caddo official who recently quit now directs veterans cemetery

Caddo official who recently quit now directs veterans cemetery

CADDO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - Kenneth "Ken" Epperson has been named as director of Northwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery, according to the Louisiana Veterans Affairs Department.

The announcement comes just days after his surprise resignation from the Caddo Commission. After decades of service as a public official, he quit without giving the public or his district any kind of warning.

Epperson began in his new position Jan. 3, the date of the first Caddo Commission meeting of the year.

He currently is being trained for his new position, Veterans Affairs spokesman Alex Juan said. "The director of cemeteries for the department, Billy Robbins, is up there with him today kind of showing him the ropes, bringing him on board."

Veterans Affairs Secretary Joey Strickland is happy to have Epperson on board, Juan added. "He's looking forward to him doing a great job up there in Keithville."

Epperson is no stranger to the Northwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery. In fact, before resigning from the Caddo Commission, he served chairman of veterans and military services for the Police Jury Association of Louisiana.

According to his biography on the PJAL website, Epperson played a big role in making the NWLA Cemetery happen by using his political office:

Tops on Ken's list of many accomplishments throughout his public life is that he was the catalyst and strong advocate with others to land the Northwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Caddo Parish.

According to Epperson, he got $5.6 million from Congress to get the cemetery started.

As a commissioner, Epperson regularly was a top spender when it came to the parish's travel and education fund.

When questioned spending about $30,000 on travel within the past three years alone, Epperson told KSLA News 12 on Dec. 1 that commission travel helped him get things done for the parish. He cited the NWLA Veterans Cemetery as an example.

"My travel has meaning. Do you know how the Northwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery got out there? Because of my lobbying, being a part of the National Association of Counties," Epperson said.

"I went to Washington, D.C., to our national conference and I got a resolution passed on the floor that we lobbied Congress, because all of the veterans cemeteries were full, especially the ones in Louisiana. And that's how we got that veterans cemetery out here."

The Caddo Commission now faces the task of filling the District 12 seat left vacant by Epperson's resignation.

Jan. 3 was the deadline for the commission to call a special election for an Oct. 14 primary and Nov. 18 general election, according to the Louisiana secretary of state's office. Candidates would have qualified July 12-14.

Parish leaders missed the Jan. 3 deadline because they didn't get the resignation letter until that date, parish attorney Donna Frazier said.

"Calling the election would have to have been done in a special meeting because, in your work session, you can't take a vote," she advised commissioners.

The secretary of state's office was to send a letter Jan. 4 asking the governor's office to call the election, Frazier said.

Epperson has not yet returned KSLA News 12's calls for comment on his resignation.

KSLA News 12 also reached out to the state Veterans Affairs Department for comment on whether it is a conflict of interest for Epperson to be hired as director of the NWLA Veterans Cemetery when he was the one who was responsible for bringing it to Caddo Parish through his public office.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Strickland responded:

"No law, rule or regulation prohibits LDVA from hiring a former parish police juror or commissioner as an employee. Furthermore, Mr. Epperson has not previously performed any services on behalf of LDVA for compensation.

This additional statement accompanied Strickland's comments:

"Mr. Epperson, without receiving any personal benefit, and along with various city, veteran and community supporters, advocated to build in Caddo Parish a cemetery over 12 years ago to provide our veterans a peaceful and honorable final resting place. It was the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, while under the direction of Secretary Strickland, and with the support of many community and state leaders, that lobbied Congress for the $5.6 million that helped make this cemetery a reality.
 
"Mr. Epperson kept a watchful eye on the project during the acquisition and construction phases, providing him with a detailed knowledge of the facility that made for a perfect fit when the position of cemetery administrator became vacant.  LDVA is proud to have him on board so that he can continue to serve the veterans of our state within the Caddo Parish community."

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