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“I’m just glad we got a quorum and got our first meeting done.”
That was the sentiment of Levy County Commissioner Nancy Bell as she chaired her first commission meeting in the wake of bribery charges and the suspensions of two commission members.
While Bell never expected to take the gavel in such a situation, she appeared relieved that the first meeting was over. But the new job has new responsibilities.
The 35-minute meeting had her signing paperwork for at least 15 minutes afterward.
One change the public can expect is Bell’s distaste for non-agenda items to be brought up at meetings. Levy County Fire Chief Rick Bloom brought a non-agenda item to the meeting and it was the first 2-1 vote of the downsized board. Bell voted against bringing up the item to allow Bloom to spend $3,641.48 to re-paint a fire truck.
“I always want to know the who, what, when, where and how much will it cost,” said Bell, an accountant. “I always ask because not only do I want to know that information, I think the public wants to know it too.”
That’s why she does not like non-agenda items — especially when they call for spending county money without the usual scrutiny.
“My role is to be as Judge (Joe) Smith said in swearing in (Commissioner) Danny Stevens, to take care of the public health welfare and safety.
“The buck stops here with this board.”
And the public can expect to see “transparency” in the board’s business. “I want everything in public.”
Bell, who says she is fiscally conservative, says she looks at lot at the revenue stream. “The public will probably find I’m a little more detailed in my work,” she said. “I like to scrutinize things before I get in the meeting.”
Bell, who has lived in Levy County for 30 years, grew up living in a lot of places as the daughter of a U.S. Coast Guard member. “I have traveled,” she said. “Growing up in the military I’ve learned a lot of skills about meeting people quickly and having to go into new places.”
Originally from Elizabeth City, N.C., Bell moved here and has brought her family along. Her parents attended her first meeting as chair of the commission, where two commission seats sat empty beside Bell.
Two sisters and a brother also live in Levy and another brother lives in Taos, N.M.
Bell’s son Roger is married and works in the Levy County Sheriff’s Office. He and wife, Michelle, have three sons, so Bell’s roots are going into Levy’s future.
“I have a very strong faith. My family has 200 years in Methodism,” she said. “I believe in very strong family values. And I am a very self-starter person.”
A graduate of the University of South Florida, Bell has worked as a middle school guidance counselor, did grants writing in the time of Comprehensive Employment and Training Administration, and is a past executive director of the Levy Association for Retarded Citizens.
She also champions causes, like providing mental health care for Levy citizens who need it and donating space for the Tri-County Habitat for Humanity.
It’s a cause she has been associated with for a number of years.
“When I met Jimmy Carter he inspired my life,” she said of a meeting in Raleigh in 1976. “I knew I was going to do something different with my life.”
Her life’s experiences could have been a preparatory course for being chair of a commission that deals with money, citizens, grants and planning futures.
“I believe God has a plan for us from the day we are conceived in the womb,” Bell said.