Dan Liljenquist: Greg Bell will be missed in state government

Published: Thursday, Sept. 19 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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On Monday, I was saddened to learn that Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell, who has served so faithfully in elected office for more than two decades, both at the local and state level, is retiring from public service. The state will miss him. I will miss him. Of all the people I have known, both inside and outside of the political arena, there is no finer man than Greg Bell.

During my time in the Utah State Senate, there are a few moments that are seared into my mind – some unmatched in beauty and import, others mundane but somehow memorable, an eclectic mix of experiences that I treasure. Early on during my first legislative session, while seated in my front row desk with the other rookies, the Senate was engaged in a noticeably testy debate over an issue we all have long forgotten. In the midst of that exchange, then-Senator Bell, a recognized leader in the body, slowly stood up from behind his desk on the back row, a signal to the Senate president that he wished to join in the discussion. When Bell was called on to speak, all of the side conversations that ordinarily provide a consistent, humming background track to Senate proceedings dissolved into silence as our full attention focused on the statuesque figure at the back of the chamber.

Standing straight and composed, his bright eyes connecting with each of us, his colleagues, one by one, Bell spoke, articulating his words with a slow musical cadence, his clear, pure voice full of kindness, carefully acknowledging the merits of each side of the debate, before intoning a beautifully reasoned and objective argument for a specific course of action. By the time he finished his remarks, the tension had dissipated, the tone of the rest of the debate became collegiate and congenial, the final vote reflecting, by an overwhelming majority, Bell’s position.

Perhaps it was because we were both representing Davis County, perhaps it was because he has been a family friend for many years, perhaps it was because he was always on the lookout for opportunities to lift and build others, regardless of the reason, Sen. Bell took an interest in me. He became my mentor and coach, my advocate and friend in the Senate. He taught me that decency, respect, compassion and charity, traits that are disappointingly rare in public office, are the foundational attributes that separate real leaders from mere politicians. He taught me that lasting political influence could never be gained at a colleagues’ expense, but rather by looking for every opportunity to help them achieve their goals. He taught me that politics need not change who you really are.

Gov. Gary Herbert could not have made a better choice when he chose Bell to serve as Utah’s latest lieutenant governor. Over these past four years, Bell has faithfully worked, largely behind the scenes, on behalf of the citizens of Utah, revamping our emergency preparedness plans, improving voter involvement and campaign finance reporting, developing Utah-specific solutions to health care reform, among dozens of other projects. Throughout, Bell has been a wise, compassionate, thoughtful public servant, a prince of a man, the truest of statesmen, in style, word and deed, a peacemaker.

While I’m saddened by Bell’s departure, I am aware of and grateful for the financial sacrifices he and his wife JoLynn have made. God bless them for the service they have rendered, with all their hearts, on behalf of the citizens of Utah. I wish them the very best of success in their next adventures.

Dan Liljenquist is a former state senator and U.S. Senate candidate.

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