Citing business commitments in Kentucky, Bernie Hettel will step down from his position as executive secretary of the Virginia Racing Commission.
Hettel, a long-time steward who formerly served as executive director of the old Kentucky Racing Commission, has not announced an effective resignation date, but the VRC expects it to come before month's end. The VRC is expected to mount a national search for its next executive secretary.
"I have very much enjoyed being part of Virginia's horse racing industry and working with the VRC these past five years, and I regret that the time has come to say goodbye," Hettel said. "With business and family interests in both Virginia and Kentucky, it was becoming clear I virtually needed to be in two places at once and thus had to make a choice."
Hettel has led the state regulator through difficult times, as Colonial Downs shut down racing and eventually lost its racing license following a dates dispute with horsemen. Colonial Downs has not offered live racing since 2013, but Hettel believes the state can move forward.
"Virginia racing has come through a difficult period, but I believe it is now positioned to realize new growth," Hettel said. "So, while I will miss being involved on a daily basis, I am confident that timing of this decision is correct. The industry is organized, enjoys the support of state government, and has sustainable revenues in place."
Virginia Racing Commission chairman D.G. Van Clief Jr. responded to news of Hettel's departure.
"Speaking on behalf of all the commissioners, we are truly sorry to see Bernie depart, and will miss him," Van Clief said. "He is an experienced and knowledgeable racing official whose expertise, integrity, and work ethic served the commonwealth admirably during an extremely tumultuous period. We wish him well as he returns to Kentucky. I have known Bernie since his days as a steward at Churchill Downs and can tell you he will not be easy to replace."