GONZALES — The passage of time apparently has healed the wounds of last fall’s rough-and-tumble political season.
Ascension Parish Assessor-elect M.J. “Mert” Smiley Jr. has been working in the Assessor’s Office since early May as an employee of incumbent Assessor Renee Mire Michel.
Both Smiley and Michel have said in interviews their post-election relationship has been going well.
“We have had a very good working relationship in this transition,” Smiley said in an interview last month.
Days after Michel, a two-term Democratic incumbent whose father also had been the longtime assessor, lost to Smiley last October, she said the then-state representative would not be allowed in her office during the more than year-long transition called for by state law.
She cited tough campaign tactics by Smiley as the reason for her decision.
Smiley, a Republican from St. Amant, said at the time that Michel gave back in equal measure during the campaign and said he wished she would be able to get over it for the good of the parish.
Michel said Wednesday that she called Smiley to meet with her in her office, after hours, in early January and they talked about the election and “got over the rough spots.”
Michel said she let Smiley know that “‘I honor the results. I really do. I am going to move on. We’re going move on with this.’”
Smiley beat Michel in the Oct. 22 parishwide election, 11,736 votes to 11,592 votes, the Louisiana Secretary of State reports.
Michel said she told Smiley she would call him in after the 2012 reassessment work was done and said he began working at the Assessor’s Office in early May.
Smiley said time spent working in the office has allowed him to check out the Assessor’s Office system. That has allowed him to see what he is going to be doing and has given him ideas on changes he wants to implement, Smiley added.
“I welcome the opportunity. She went out of her way to do that,” he said.
In the election’s aftermath, Smiley also has shown some public deference to Michel, declining comment last month on preliminary 2012 reassessment figures Michel released.
Smiley cited the ongoing transition and noted that, as Michel’s employee, it really would be improper for him to comment on the reassessment figures she issued.
Michel said she moved her day-to-day office to the Ascension Parish Courthouse in Donaldsonville and Smiley is stationed in the Assessor’s Office at the Parish Courthouse Annex in Gonzales.
She said Smiley has been able to work with office employees without her constant presence and commented that he has shown her respect for her years of public service.
“He has been very, very nice,” Michel said. “It’s been enjoyable, to be honest with you.”