LIVINGSTON – Joviality, accolades and a sense of melancholy highlighted Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor’s fifth-term inaugural ceremony Feb. 10 at the Courthouse.
He struggled to hold back tears during the swearing-in. Taylor told the capacity crowd that the grief remained fresh nearly six months after the death of his father, longtime Registrar of Voters Delmas Taylor.
“My dad’s strong commitment to ethics in his office kept him from attending inauguration ceremonies and fundraisers – including my own,” the Assessor said. “But we had talked about it a few days before his accident and he said he looked forward to coming to this ceremony/
“I’ve gotten past that, but that being said, there are a lot of things in life I like to do, but I love being the Assessor,” Taylor said. “I’ve been asked to do a lot of things in life, but I love being the Assessor and I love coming to work every morning.”
Taylor, 52, stood surrounded by his son Zachary, daughter Caroline, mother Sharon and wife Delia when 21st Judicial District court Judge Charlotte Hughes Foster – a cousin to the assessor – administered the oath of office.
His post-inaugural comments focused largely on the roles his staff and family have played in his success.
“We had fourteen people who flooded, but we opened the door Monday after the storm and they came to work, put in a full day and then left to go work on their homes,” Taylor said.
He also attributed his success to his mother – who is affectionately known to staffers as “Peaches” – along with is wife of 30 years, Delia.
“I can’t imagine anyone wanting to stay with me thirty years” Taylor said. “Heck, my mommy gave me away when I was twenty-one.”
Aside from jokes at his own expense, a few longtime parish officials at the ceremony offered their own jokes about the Assessor.
Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard said he wore his official uniform for a special reason.
“Jeff like the badge and he’s wanted one for years – and I’m not giving him one,” Ard said.
Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks continued on Ard’s quip.
“Maybe we could get him one of the bellhop uniforms from the Hilton Hotel and that would make him happy,” he said.
Livingston Parish Clerk of Court Tom Sullivan, who took office the same year as Taylor alluded to the Assessor’s fascination with technology, based on the mapping system which he unveiled in early 2016.
“Now he’s created a remote devise which allows him to run his entire office from a remote location,” Sullivan quipped. “Whether at home or the fishing camp or the ballgame, he can press one of many buttons from the remote and get many responses.”
Festivities began with a pre-inaugural service and luncheon at Unity Prayer Center on Frost Road – the church Taylor’s father founded and pastured for 45 years.
A BUSY SLATE AHEAD
Taylor begins his fifth term Friday in what may bring him the biggest challenges he has faced yet.
He said feels almost like he is almost starting from scratch on accuracy of assessments on the wake of the Great Flood of 2016. Damage to approximately 80 percent of the residential and commercial structures in Livingston Parish washed away certainty on accurate assessments.
“The next four years will definitely be a matter of overcoming the challenges of the flood,” said Taylor, who first took office in 2000. “We had everything moving in the right direction with mapping and working straight from computers – and then came the flood, which took all the work we did over the years and turned it upside down.”
It will take at least two or three years for his office to determine true values on property across the parish, Taylor said.
The recovery stage remains in the starting phase for the parish, which means Taylor’s office must take the “wait and see” approach on assessments.”
“Realtors are saying values aren’t going down much, but I can’t be assured of that until work is finished and sales start happening again,” he said.
Taylor’s office will spend the next four years working to find the accurate assessments on the homes.
The newer homes will pose a greater challenge, he said.
“You have some older homes that have flooded multiple times, and they are where they are on assessments because we had those factors built in,” Taylor said. “But for the newer homes, this flood was so enormous that we may not factor it again because we’re not sure.”
The rarity of a flood the magnitude of the August event fuels the uncertainty.
Taylor has gotten into the habit of studying weather patterns that determine the possibility of another record rainfall.
Many people misunderstand the meaning of a term such as “500-year-flood,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean it only comes every 500 years,” Taylor said. “What they’re telling you is that there is a one-in-500 chance it will happen – and by that logic, it could happen every year.
“In my life, I’ve lived through two 100-year floods (1977 and 1983), one 500-year flood (1983) and possibly a 1,000-year flood last year – and I’m only 52. What luck is that?” he said. “I think there’s a lot lacking in the factual manner there. But that being said, it says you have that much more of a chance of a one-in-1,000.
“The weather patterns have gotten much more interesting since the flood came through,” Taylor said.