As of Saturday, the New Orleans mayoral election will be, at long last, behind us.
Time to bid Mitch Landrieu farewell and welcome the city's first woman mayor? Well, not quite.
Instead, New Orleans government is about to enter unfamiliar territory, a nearly six-month-long transition period dictated by a quirk in the electoral calendar.
Here's what happened: Landrieu was elected to a second four-year term in February 2014 and sworn in on the customary date in May of that year. But later that year, the Louisiana Legislature agreed to an idea pushed by the League of Women Voters to move municipal elections back to the fall. The idea was to have people vote when they're more focused on their choices, rather than forcing candidates to compete for attention with the holidays, Mardi Gras and, ideally, a Saints playoff run or New Orleans-hosted Super Bowl.
In future years the inauguration date will shift as well. But because Landrieu and other officials were elected under the old calendar, their terms don't end until May.
So starting Saturday night and running well into next year, get ready to have not one mayor on the scene, but two.
Political insiders are already gaming out how that will work — and who will actually be in charge.
The notoriously strong-willed Landrieu hasn't endorsed either City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell or former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet, and it's widely held that his preferred choices as successors didn't run. But he has said, repeatedly, that he hopes the new mayor will break New Orleans' long-standing tradition of change for the sake of change and will keep the city moving in the same direction.
Starting next week, he'll know who that person will be, and the two will start negotiating that relationship. He will want to tell the new mayor how things are done. It's unclear to what extent the new mayor will want to hear it, or whether she'll want to emphasize her independence instead.
The dynamics will be particularly closely watched should Cantrell win on Saturday. The two have periodically clashed, and Cantrell would still have her seat on the council from which to try to influence matters.
Landrieu and Charbonnet don't have the same history, although at least one of her most prominent backers, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, is a longtime Landrieu adversary. It's possible that tension over criminal justice matters could bleed into the relationship should Charbonnet be elected.
A new poll predicts that New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell could win the mayor's…
The first major decision, though, may come over at the Sewerage & Water Board. The mayor serves as president of the quasi-independent board, and the unexpected summer flooding, followed by revelations of shocking mismanagement, have been a black eye for Landrieu.
The mayor got rid of the leadership team and hired an interim management group, but the need for a permanent team is urgent. Cantrell has said in several recent forums that the new mayor would likely work with Landrieu to hire an executive director well before she takes office. And that's just one of many major actions that could take place during this interim period.
It's worth remembering that running city elections in the fall was intended as a good government move designed to increase voter involvement, and in the long run, that may well be the result. The short-term question is if this one-time extended transition will produce good governance.
Whether it does will be the first test of the incoming administration. Not to mention the last test of the outgoing one.