President's Column
March-April 2024

A changing of the guard

By Erleigh Wiley
TDCAA Board President & Criminal District Attorney in Kaufman County

I am proud to serve as the President of TDCAA, a nonprofit dedicated to serving Texas prosecutors, investigators, victim assistance coordinators, and the key personnel of county and district attorneys’ offices throughout the state. Though officially incorporated in 1971, this organization has supported district and county attorneys’ offices for more than 100 years with training, education, and other resources to ensure personnel are competent to meet the demands of the profession.

            My own personal experience with TDCAA exemplifies the breadth of resources available, whether you are a newly licensed attorney or an elected official. As a young prosecutor from the Dallas County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, I attended my first training with TDCAA in the ’90s, the Prosecutors Trial Skills Course (commonly referred to as “baby prosecutor’s school”). At that time, I had no idea the impact TDCAA would have in a prosecutor’s office or my own career. This first course taught the basics of trial advocacy and the techniques of prosecution and laid the foundation of my prosecution career. Since that time, I served for over 10 years as a judge and then returned to prosecution as the elected Criminal District Attorney for Kaufman County. TDCAA was there to assist me with Newly Elected Prosecutor Boot Camp and has been an invaluable resource to me and my office for the last 10 years. 

            The backbone of TDCAA since 2002 has been its Executive Director, Rob Kepple. Rob started his legal career as an attorney with Fulbright & Jaworski. He left that firm after two years to become a prosecutor in Harris County, and after five years he joined TDCAA as general counsel in 1990, eventually becoming the executive director.  Rob, along with his staff, keeps TDCAA an effective and vital organization for prosecution and manages the largest prosecution association in the nation. 

            Most of us know Rob through assisting prosecutors throughout the state, attending conferences, and managing the TDCAA staff. As I have had the opportunity to work with Rob while serving on the TDCAA Board and as the President, I have begun to understand he has many other responsibilities, including managing the financials, facilitating training, and ensuring TDCAA keeps us all apprised of legislation and its impact on district and county attorneys’ offices. Rob’s accomplishments include increasing the solvency of TDCAA’s Foundation and continuing innovative training and education to ensure Texas has the best trained prosecutors in the country. We are so proud that Rob has been the executive director of TDCAA for more than 20 years. 

            At our Elected Prosecutor Conference in November, Rob announced that he was retiring before the end of 2024. He effectively gave us a year to plan for, interview, and select a new executive director for our organization. Although Rob is irreplaceable, I am honored to help select the next executive director by forming a selection committee from our talented membership to assist in this task.

            I contacted and asked other prosecutors to be a part of the selection committee. Some of these are board members, elected prosecutors, and others; but the most important part of this selection is you. Because I cannot put all of you on the selection committee, the committee will be conducting a survey in March to determine what our service group would like to see on the application for the executive director position. Be sure to check your office email for the link to the survey, which will be sent through SurveyMonkey. From your feedback and the committee’s work, the application will be posted. After we receive the applications, interviews will be conducted and an executive director selected. 

            I encourage each of you to take this selection process seriously. This is an opportunity to shape TDCAA into the future and ensure the association continues to provide quality support to those in prosecutor offices. 

            Please join me in thanking Rob for his 22 years of service as our executive director. I look forward to your feedback and responses to the upcoming survey.