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Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mikeperlstein

After 40 years as Orleans Parish Coroner, Dr. Frank Minyard has called it quits.

Despite qualifying two weeks ago for an unprecedented 11th term in office, Minyard told Eyewitness News in an exclusive interview formally dropped out of the race on Monday.

Meg Casper, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State, said their office received a letter from Minyard with his decision to drop out of the race. Minyard is expected to speak at 1 p.m.

'Now I need a job,' joked the 84-year-old Minyard, a gynecologist by training, but a coroner for most of his professional career. 'Maybe I can find something in a hospice.'

Minyard said he plans to endorse Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, one of the three candidates who qualified to run against him. Rouse, a forensic psychiatrist, is Minyard's deputy coroner and had been touted by Minyard in the past as a solid choice to succeed him.

'He's a good man with a good moral fiber,' Minyard said. 'I think he'd be perfect for the position.'

The other two candidates in the race are Dr. Dwight McKenna, who has run against Minyard unsuccessfully in several previous elections, and political newcomer Dr. Vincent Culotta.

'I still love the job, but the position needs young blood, somebody who's computer literate,' Minyard told Eyewitness Investigator Mike Perlstein. 'I feel like it would be selfish for me to continue.'

Minyard, whose colorful campaigns have featured posters showing him in a white lab suit playing his beloved trumpet on a Mississippi River levee, toyed with the idea of retirement before previous elections, but he never pulled the trigger.

He said he was determined to make his 2002 campaign his last, but Hurricane Katrina scuttled those plans. After the storm flooded his former office in the criminal courthouse,
Minyard said he felt obligated to help get the operation back up and running.

Today, after years of delays, there's a state-of-the-art coroner's office sprouting from a new location on Earhart Boulevard. But for the past eight years, the coroner's office has been operating out of a converted funeral home on Martin Luther King Boulevard, a space so cramped that bodies are kept in refrigerated trucks in the building's parking lot.

Minyard said he is planning a press conference Monday morning to announce his retirement and file his withdrawal papers with the secretary of state's office in Baton Rouge.

His last day in office will be March 31.

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