On the heels of one of the messiest Election Day’s in recent memory, Secretary of the State-elect Denise Merrill appointed Rep. James Spallone of Essex to be her deputy secretary of the state to help her improve the way elections are run.

“We needed someone who has the expertise in working with election law and government administration who could hit the ground running,” Merrill said. “I also needed someone who knows what it’s like to own and operate a small business.”

She said Spallone fit the bill.

Spallone, who served as co-chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, has spent the last 10 years representing the people of the 36th House District and running his own law practice in Essex.

Merrill said her experience early on in the Parent Teacher Association and later as the legislature’s majority leader taught her that in order to get anything done you need the right team of people.

“The most important decision I can make right now as Secretary of the State-elect is choosing the right deputy,” Merrill said Monday during a press conference at the Legislative Office Building.

Of course, no one was surprised when Merrill made Spallone’s appointment Monday because it may have been the worst kept secret at the state Capitol.

But it does open up another legislative seat that will need to be filled by a special election. Thus far, Spallone said candidates have emerged in four of the five towns in his district and a convention will be held sometime in mid-January.

Last week Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven and Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford announced they would be leaving the legislature to join Gov.-elect Dan Malloy’s administration.

Merrill and Spallone said they will be hitting the ground running Jan. 5 looking for ways to improve the voting process for voters, so that what happens in Bridgeport never happens again.

“Clearly the Election of 2010 showed us we have more work to do to improve the way elections are run in this state,” Merrill said. “My intention is to get to the bottom of what needs to be fixed in our state so this never ever happens again.”