Assessor’s wait to take oath ends

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- District Judge Guy Holdridge, left,  administers the oath of office Wednesday to Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux, right, as Betty Arceneaux, center, holds the Bible. Mayor Arceneaux was sworn in during a 10 a.m. ceremony in Gonzales City Hall, 120 S. Irma Blvd.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- District Judge Guy Holdridge, left, administers the oath of office Wednesday to Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux, right, as Betty Arceneaux, center, holds the Bible. Mayor Arceneaux was sworn in during a 10 a.m. ceremony in Gonzales City Hall, 120 S. Irma Blvd.

Mert Smiley chuckled as he recalled how long he’d waited for Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony marking the start of his four-year term as assessor of Ascension Parish.

Elected Oct. 22, 2011, by defeating incumbent Renee Mire Michel, former state legislator M.J. “Mert” Smiley Jr. waited more than 14 months to take the oath of office, which was delivered by Ascension Parish Court Judge Marilyn Lambert in the Ascension Parish Courthouse Annex on Wednesday morning.

It had been so long since Smiley won the heated election that he’d had not one, but two birthdays, he chuckled.

“I thought this day would never come,” said Smiley, a 61-year-old Republican from St. Amant.

Each parish assessor is elected at the gubernatorial election for a four-year term of office.

Smiley wasn’t the only elected official in Ascension Parish to take an oath of office on Wednesday. Seven city of Gonzales officials were sworn in at an earlier ceremony in Gonzales City Hall.

Mayor Barney Arceneaux and Police Chief Sherman Jackson took their second oaths of office, while City Council members Kirk Boudreaux, Terence Irvin, Gary Lacombe, Kenny Matassa and Timothy Vessel also were sworn in.

Irvin and Matassa enter their fifth terms in office, while Boudreaux begins his second and both Lacombe and Vessel take office for the first time.

“We will continue to put problem-solving ahead of petty politics to assure our city continues to prosper,” Arceneaux said.

Jackson, who thanked his friends, family members, predecessors and mentors who helped him earn a second term, said he was as nervous on Wednesday as he was the first time he took an oath to serve and protect the citizens of Gonzales as their police chief.

“It feels like the very first time I won,” he said. “I walked into the office this morning, (and) my heart was pounding. My secretary asked what was wrong. I said, ‘I’m nervous.’”

Smiley, however, said he was anything but nervous to take over as the parish’s tax assessor. Prior to his election, Smiley spent eight years in the state House of Representatives.

Joining him during Wednesday’s ceremony were the 27 staff members at the Assessor’s Office, including four new full-time and four new part-time employees hired by Smiley.

He said among the first things he learned when he began working in the Assessor’s Office in May was that the office didn’t have enough field employees, so he set about hiring more. In addition, he said, he plans to upgrade the office’s website and make the office more accessible by increasing the office hours.

“My goal is to make your Assessor’s Office the most modern, efficient and friendly in the state of Louisiana,” Smiley said.