BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson announced his retirement Wednesday, according to a statement released Wednesday morning.
Edmonson's departure comes after a Lee Zurik investigation raised questions about travel expenses for some state troopers.
In a prepared statement released just before 11 a.m. Wednesday, Edmonson confirmed he was stepping down.
"I have spent the better part of the last few days meeting with Governor Edwards and his staff. I have also been talking with my family and friends from around the state, many of them legislators, sheriffs, chiefs of police and business owners. The discussion has always led to the same question—what is best for my family, the Louisiana State Police and all the employees who are part of Public Safety Services? After meeting again with the Governor today, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the state that I retire from my position as Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Superintendent of State Police. The Governor has never asked that I step down. As our discussions continued today, I have come to believe that my moving aside will permit the governor and the state to move forward.
"I thank Governor Edwards for permitting me to be a part of his team. He and I have endured more than our share of crises during his first 14 months. I have offered my advice, my counsel, my support and have always given him my utmost loyalty. In return, he has entrusted me to lead this great organization. For that, I am eternally grateful.
"While I have been responsible for overseeing an agency of more than 2600 employees since 2008, it was the Louisiana State Police that gave me my first opportunity in public service more than 36 years ago. I am most proud of my tenure as Superintendent. I am an imperfect person; however, when I made decisions that later gave me pause, I strived to learn from that experience and move forward. My goal was unwavering—to always do what I thought was in the best interests of my employees and the state. My nine years as Superintendent have been humbling and gratifying. I am confident that my contributions have made a measurable and positive difference. I truly believe that Louisiana has been safe with me.
"I recognize that the Louisiana State Police is bigger than any one person. It is certainly bigger than Mike Edmonson. My desire is that making this decision will ultimately return a sense of normalcy to an agency with a very important mission and an incredibly proud history. I am certain that in his deliberations for selecting my replacement the governor will understand the importance of his decision and will make the right choice. I will support my successor in providing a smooth transition; the state deserves nothing less.
"I thank the Governor and the legislature for allowing me to lead an amazing group of men and women. I thank my friends around the state who have supported me, our agency and its personnel. I thank all the employees among the several agencies I have overseen in Public Safety who helped us achieve great things, sometimes under difficult circumstances. My greatest assets have always been my employees. Nothing has been more humbling than having observed the quality of service they provided to the citizens of our state each day with an unparalleled degree of integrity and professionalism. They, in particular, have my abiding gratitude.
"This past January 4th, 36 years ago, my father pinned the "gold boot" upon my chest as I was sworn in as a Louisiana State Trooper. Over the course of my career, my family has sacrificed more than I. They proudly accepted the price of my professional calling and never once complained of my missing presence. A retired General once told me, "It is just as difficult to defend the human spirit as it is to raise it." I think about his words every single time I wear the uniform. I never forget and frequently remind all first responders that the badge we wear is a privilege, not a right. One that is afforded to us by the public we serve. I've known since childhood that God's Plan runs perfect and that His Will be done. I am excited for what He has in store for me."
In October 2016, during the state's budget crunch, Louisiana State Police sent 17 people to a four-day conference in San Diego for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Calculating salaries, overtime, meals, flights and hotels, the total cost came to around $70,000.
But four employees' trek out west raised questions about an organization where integrity is a core value.
Four Louisiana State Police employees - Derrell Williams, Rodney Hyatt, Thurman Miller and Alexandr Nezgodinsky - went to the conference in a state police vehicle. They drove from Baton Rouge to San Diego.
In a prepared statement, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said Edmonson has been a "steady hand and a strong leader."
"Today, after careful consideration and many discussions regarding the future of the state police, Col. Edmonson notified me of his retirement. Together, we believe this is the best approach for the department. Throughout many natural and man-made disasters, Col. Edmonson has been a steady hand and strong leader for the people of Louisiana. I, and many of the people of Louisiana have sought Col. Edmonson's counsel on numerous occasions, and he has provided leadership and support when we've needed it most. Since taking office, I have relied on the men and women of the Louisiana State Police more than I would have liked, but I am proud to say that they have some of the most skilled and dedicated individuals serving in their ranks. Much of their success is due to Col. Edmonson's innovative thinking and concern for our state. I want to thank him for his more than three decades of service to the state of Louisiana and wish him well as he begins his retirement."
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) also issued a statement praising Edmonson's decision and thanking him for his service.
"Col. Edmonson made the right decision in retiring, and I thank him for his service. Unfortunately, his leadership had become a distraction during difficult times for Louisiana.
Kennedy urged the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's Office and the Division of Administration to continue investigating out-of-state travel by state police.