Spotlight on the TDCAA staff

By Kenda Culpepper
TDCAA President & Criminal District Attorney in Rockwall County

TDCAA staff. In a word, they are amazing. They’re also smart, funny, dedicated, and passionate about what they do.

Led by Executive Director Rob Kepple, they spend countless hours supporting prosecutor offices in their mission to see that justice is done. And they do it often with little accolade, allowing us, their membership, to reap the benefits of their labor. But who are they exactly?

            This month, I’ve asked them to share some fun facts about themselves so you can get to know them a little better.  Just as importantly, though, I want you to learn about the great work that is being done at TDCAA and whom you can contact if you want to get involved. 

Clay Abbott

How long have you worked at TDCAA? 15 years (since October 2004)

What are your main job duties? I’m a resource on DWI issues, I do regional DWI training, I assist the training director on TDCAA schools, and (not in my official job description) I’m the TDCAA bouncer.

What do you like about the Association? 1) It is a job that matters. What prosecutors do is very important, and helping them do that very demanding job better is very satisfying. 2) Great management that lets you succeed. 3) Fantastic people to work with.

What’s a fun fact about you? My most expensive clothing is actually a pirate outfit.

What’s something people may not know about TDCAA?  We are not actually a bookstore.

How could members get involved with the Association? Two simple answers: Show up. Ask.

Diane Beckham

How long have you worked at TDCAA? Since September 1996, when my first day on the job involved getting on a plane and flying to South Padre for the Annual conference

What are your main job duties? Writing, editing, and formatting TDCAA books. We produced a TDCAA record high of 20 books in 2019. I also supervise employees involved with victim services and other publications-related activities, including this journal, and provide staff support for miscellaneous other projects, such as our Diversity, Recruitment, & Retention Committee, and an ad hoc group working on creating cognitive bias training and resources.

What do you like about the Association? Appreciative, fun members who have helped us build a community of prosecutors

What’s a fun fact about you? I went to law school to become a sports agent (in my former journalist life, I was a sports reporter and editor). But first-year contracts class bored me to pieces, and I wasn’t good at it, so I finished law school and passed the bar exam, but more or less went back to writing afterward.

What’s something people may not know about TDCAA? We thrive on member involvement and feedback. Every activity we undertake (choosing which books to publish, which seminars to offer, and which issues in the legislature to focus on) depends on us finding out what our members need. If a member has an idea about any of these things, we would love to hear from you any time. All these ideas go through boards and committees made up of prosecutor-office employees, and those boards and committees help direct our staff of 16 in choosing the ideas that will help the greatest number of prosecutor-office employees.

How could members get involved with the Association? Call or email anyone at TDCAA any time. Talk to any one of us at a conference. Better yet, express interest in serving on one of our committees through the TDCAA office or the current president of the TDCAA board of directors (that’s Kenda Culpepper, CDA in Rockwall County). We love having input from members of varied backgrounds and experience levels to ensure we’re providing services that are actually helpful.

Shannon Edmonds

How long have you worked at TDCAA? Since 2002

What are your main job duties? Keeping TDCAA members up to speed on political and policy issues that impact their offices, helping prosecutors navigate the shoals of the legislative process, assisting with our training and publications efforts as needed, and answering legal questions.

What do you like about the Association? The staff is small, but we are all aligned in support of the same mission: helping local prosecutors serve their communities.

What’s a fun fact about you? First Lady Laura Bush once baked me cookies. (OK, sure, at the time she was “just” the First Lady of Texas, and the cookies were for me and several of my co-workers in the Governor’s Office who had driven from Austin to Crawford and were waiting to go over some state business with then-Governor George W. Bush, who was running for president at the time, but who cares about the details—wasn’t that a wonderfully thoughtful gesture by her? And yes, the cookies were delicious.)

What’s something people may not know about TDCAA? It’s more than 110 years old and it’s the largest statewide association of prosecutors in the country.

How could members get involved with the Association? Volunteer for a committee! We are a member-driven association, and we can succeed in our mission to strengthen and improve our profession only if our members participate.

Sarah Halverson

(but I’ll still answer to Wolf, my maiden name)

How long have you worked at TDCAA? Since 2002

What are your main job duties? Producing this journal six times a year takes up most of my time, but I also do the graphic design for conference brochures, signage, and materials for our Foundation. Randomly, I’m also the staff calligrapher.

What do you like about the Association? I learn something new every day in this job, and it has changed me in some fundamental ways. I’ve also met the smartest, most generous, saltiest people working here.

What’s a fun fact about you? Two houses I’ve lived in were featured in a design magazine. It’s way less glamorous than it looks, believe me.

What’s something people may not know about TDCAA? We’re a much smaller ship than our members might think. I’ve fielded calls from people who ask to speak to someone in “the book department”—well, the book department is two people! We’re lean ’n’ mean up in these parts.

How could members get involved with the Association? I am always on the lookout for people who want to write for the journal. I mean, all y’all are experts in something—share what you know with the rest of us. It’s my job is to make you look good while doing it.

Jordan Kazmann

How long have you worked at TDCAA? I have worked for TDCAA as a full-time employee for almost six years.

What are your main job duties? My job duties include the sales and shipments of our different publications. I am also our building manager, responsible for maintaining our building and four other tenants who occupy the second floor.

What do you like about the Association? I enjoy the friendly environment of our Association and our excellent management team.

What’s a fun fact about you? A couple of fun facts about me are I am a former professional soccer player, and my wife and I run a successful volleyball club.

Rob Kepple

How long have you worked at TDCAA? I am in my 30th year at TDCAA. Prosecution has been my career, and I have been honored to be able to serve our profession as the general counsel and now director of our professional home.   

What are your main job duties? As the director of the association, my job is to give the TDCAA staff the tools they need to serve you—then get out of their way. I am amazed at what the TDCAA team has been able to accomplish and how our profession has grown during my tenure here. 

What do you like about the Association? Our members. Texas prosecutors are the friendliest people I have ever met and are so appreciative of what we try to do. It is very fulfilling to support you and get you what you need. 

What’s a fun fact about you? In 2020 I will be the president of the National Association of Prosecutor Coordinators. 

What’s something people may not know about TDCAA? Out of 1,500 MCLE training organizations in Texas, TDCAA annually ranks fourth or fifth in the number of MCLE training hours provided (behind only the State Bar training entities and the Dallas Bar Association). In Fiscal Year 2019, we produced 71,376 MCLE hours of training.  

How could members get involved with the Association? TDCAA thrives because we are a member-driven organization. Want to get involved in publications or training? Just give me a call!

Brian Klas

How long have you worked at TDCAA? Since 2016

What are your main job duties? As training director, I supervise the development and implementation of TDCAA’s training initiatives.     

What do you like about the Association? Unlike some professional associations or training entities, TDCAA does not exist only to keep itself in existence. We work hard to meet the needs of our members through training, legislative support, and individual direct assistance. If it isn’t in the interest of our membership, we don’t do it. Because of that, as long as you are seeing justice done, we are too.

What’s a fun fact about you? I never won a bike during Bozo’s Grand Prize Game.

What’s something people may not know about TDCAA? The men’s bathroom code is 19777.

How could members get involved with the Association? If you want to get involved in training, just shoot me an email or talk to me at a conference. I’m super friendly and there is at least a 65-percent chance you will enjoy the inter- action. Those are good odds.

Monica Mendoza

How long have you worked at TDCAA? I have been with TDCAA for about five months. I joined the team shortly after I took the Texas bar exam. 

What are your main job duties? My main duties include writing the weekly case summaries and assisting prosecutors with legal research questions. 

What do you like about the Association? All the people who make up TDCAA. Every member I have met is always willing to share their story,  knowledge, and experience as a prosecutor. On top of all the great members, the staff is also extraordinary. Since I have joined TDCAA, I have quickly learned that the staff is the heart of TDCAA. They are all welcoming and encouraging, and overall they love what they do. 

What’s a fun fact about you? I have a really high-pitch yell that comes in handy when I visit haunted houses every October. 

What’s something people may not know about TDCAA? Signing up to our TDCAA case summaries is a great way to stay up-to-date on the most recent Texas and federal court cases. Anyone is welcome to sign up—just go to www .tdcaa.com/case-summaries-sign-up.

Andrea “Andie” Peters

How long have you worked at TDCAA? Since October 2018

What are your main job duties? Assistant Meeting Planner. For TDCAA seminars, I book hotel rooms and blocks, set up conference rooms, take care of AV needs, do everything food- and beverage-related, make travel plans for our speakers, upload a lot of website stuff including training materials and speaker evals, make budgets for conferences … the list goes on.

What do you like about the Association? That I work with really good, genuine people whom I am able to count on.

What’s a fun fact about you? I am a really good tennis player, and caramel apples are my all-time favorite thing in the entire world.

What’s something people may not know about TDCAA? We all get together in the conference room once a month before every conference and hand-stuff every single folder we give out at each conference.

How could members get involved with the Association? Volunteering to help at registration for an hour or two at conferences. When you see us behind the desk checking people in, we could always use a few extra hands, especially when we are in your city and you are able to come early.

Jalayne Robinson

How long have you worked at TDCAA? About six years.

What are your main job duties? As TDCAA’s Director of Victim Services, my primary responsibility is to assist Texas elected prosecutors and their staff in providing support services to crime victims in their jurisdictions. I travel around Texas providing training to prosecutor offices. I assist victim assistance coordinators (VACs) and elected prosecutors in setting up programing that meets the statutory duties for prosecutor offices. 

What do you like about the Association? TDCAA keeps up with the latest in the field of criminal justice and shares this information with our members through TDCAA’s bi-monthly journal, The Texas Prosecutor, and through training at our seminars offered throughout the year.

What’s a fun fact about you?  I was born on the 4th of July—my Daddy called me his little firecracker. And I raised 21 Toy Poodle puppies to pay for my graduate degree.

What’s something people may not know about TDCAA?  TDCAA is a member-driven organization. Our training and services are developed and presented by TDCAA members from all across the state who serve on committees and boards.

How could members get involved with the Association?  We need your energy at TDCAA! If you have an interesting topic or innovative idea you have implemented in your office, please consider sharing with other TDCAA members, either by speaking at one of our conferences or writing an article for this journal. You can consider running for election for one of our boards or committees—these groups oversee production of our training, books and manuals, legislative work, diversity in prosecutor offices, and the journal. There’s really something for every skill set.

Dayatra Rogers

How long have you worked at TDCAA? Since 2004

What are your main job duties? Database Manager & Registrar

What do you like about the Association? The passion we have in giving our members the very best of us. 

What’s a fun fact about you? I love planting and working in my flower bed.

LaToya Scott

How long have you worked at TDCAA? Four years

What are your main job duties? I organize conferences and meetings and create experiences for our members.

What do you like about the Association? Paid holidays

What’s a fun fact about you? I like to play Sudoku.

What’s something people may not know about TDCAA? We are a customer service-based organization and because we are, our members are profoundly involved in the association.

How could members get involved with the Association? If you’re an expert in your field, inquire about becoming a faculty advisor at our Prosecutor Trial Skills Course, and ask about our Train the Trainer program to become a future speaker for TDCAA.

The Andrew Smith

How long have you worked at TDCAA? Since 2001

What are your main job duties? Countin’ cash and cuttin’ checks.

What do you like about the Association? Always having support from my TDCAA family for my home family.

What’s a fun fact about you? I can whip up some killer fried chicken wings.

What’s something people may not know about TDCAA? We have only 16 employees.  

How could members get involved with the Association? Volunteer on-site at one of our trainings near you.

Amber Styers

How long have you worked at TDCAA? I started as a temp in 2015, on and off for a while, but full time for a year and a half to date, or maybe the last two years. I really don’t know!

What are your main job duties? Answering the phones and writing reimbursement checks. 

What do you like about the Association?  I have loved getting to know our members, and I love everyone on our staff and everything we do. This has been my favorite job ever.

What’s a fun fact about you? I have a motorcycle. Also, I really like cold French fries.

What’s something people may not know about TDCAA? Clay Abbott, our DWI Resource Prosecutor, makes chili for a staff lunch once a year. It feels like a family here—we all help out to get things done before seminars. And it’s very creepy in the office if you are the last one in the building.

Back to Kenda

I hope you have learned more about these amazing people, but I am also optimistic that you saw something that may have piqued your interest about getting involved. As the staff mentions over and over, TDCAA is a membership-driven organization. These fine individuals can give us the tools, but it takes volunteer participation to make this machine work.

            The key is this:  If you want to get involved and make an impact on prosecutors, investigators, and staff across the state, all you have to do is ask. TDCAA has a number of standing committees that contribute to the work that the staff does; they include Legislative; Training; Diversity, Recruitment, and Retention; Publications; Editorial; Civil; Investigators; and Key Personnel & Victim Services. It really does just take a phone call to let someone know of your interest. The more engaged our members are, the stronger our organization will be.

            Want to speak at a conference? Let TDCAA know that you’d like to attend Train the Trainer, or talk to someone on the Training Committee. Interested in the legislative process? Volunteer to come to Austin to learn the ropes during the session. You can stay for a day or a week, and no one is going to make you speak unless you want to or until you are ready. Recently worked on an intriguing case or running an amazing program? Reach out to the editor of this journal to write an article about it.

            I hope you will take a moment to thank TDCAA staffers the next time you see them at a conference or talk to them on the phone. And consider this a personal invitation to be more active in TDCAA—your association. If you’re not involved, you’re missing out. It’s just that simple.