With the gubernatorial elections — and other state and parish office elections — out of the way, all that is left is to get the government we the people selected sworn into office so all of those public officials can get to work.
Some who were running in special elections, like the race to fill the vacancy in the New Iberia City Marshal’s Office, have already been sworn in. But the bulk of the incumbents returning for new terms and newbies taking office for the first time are still awaiting the chance to lay their hands on a Bible and swear their oaths.
The challenge this year is that Jan. 1 fell on a Wednesday. The governor is sworn in on the second Monday of January, which means Gov. John Bel Edwards doesn’t officially start his second term until Jan. 13. The officers of government serving under Edwards can’t be sworn in until after he takes the oath of office for the upcoming term.
That also means that some parish councils — like the Iberia Parish Council — will have already met, forcing a special meeting to swear in the members for the upcoming term.
So in Iberia Parish, rather than swearing in the four new and 10 returning council members during the first meeting of the year on Jan. 8, they are scheduled to be sworn in during a ceremony on Jan. 13. Returning Iberia Parish President M. Larry Richard will also be sworn in on the 13th.
For the St. Martin Parish Council, the first meeting of the year was rescheduled from Jan. 7 to Jan. 14. Justice John Weimer of the Louisiana Supreme Court will be on hand that day to administer the oath of office to incumbent Parish President Chester Cedars as well as the four returning councilmen and five newly elected council members.
“It is indeed an honor to have a justice on the state’s highest court administer our oaths of office,” Cedars said in his report to the council last month.
For some offices, though, it’s not as easy as that. Sheriff’s offices, for example, run on a fiscal year that does not begin until July 1. In St. Martin and Iberia parishes, the incoming sheriffs — Becket Breaux in St. Martin, Tommy Romero in Iberia — will have to wait until the end of June to swear in.
Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal and St. Martin Parish Sheriff Ronald J. Theriot will remain in office until then.
If for some reason either of the incumbents decided to leave office before the end of their respective terms, the sheriff-elect would be able to be sworn in immediately.
For assessors, there’s another wrinkle entirely. Under Louisiana state law, assessors are not sworn in until more than a year after they are elected to allow for a transition period when assessors change. That also ensures someone with experience is running the office during the reassessment that occurs in the last part of the year every four years, the fall after the assessor is chosen.
In Iberia Parish, that means incoming Iberia Parish Assessor Taylor Barras will not be sworn into office until January, 2021 — 16 months after he won the position unopposed, filing to run when he was term-limited out of his seat in the state House of Representatives. That means current Assessor Ricky Huval will still oversee this year’s reassessment.
Interestingly, the waiting period is kept in effect even when an incumbent is reelected. In St. Martin Parish, Assessor R. Todd Dugas was unopposed during this year’s election, but will still wait until January of next year to be sworn in for his next term.