Tom Smart, Deseret News
Greg Bell

Generally, no one is surprised when people who thrive on attention run for elected office. Indeed, it's usually the "public" element of public service that appeals to self-aggrandizing personalities. Rare is the politician who chooses to serve without seeking the limelight and doesn't jump at every chance to get his face in front of a camera.

That's one of the primary reasons why Utah will miss Lt. Gov. Greg Bell when he steps down from office later this year.

From his first term on the Farmington City Council, through his tenure in the Utah State House of Representatives, and all during his time as second-in-command of Utah state government, Bell's service has been marked by humility, self-effacing dignity and quiet competence. Those are not adjectives typically applied to elected officials, but it would be hard to find anyone in any party who would object to using them to describe Bell.

Even those who oppose him on the issues still respect him immensely. That kind of comity between ideological opponents is a necessary element in forging compromise through the combative legislative process. Bell's ability to disagree without being disagreeable is a trait that is in woefully short supply in both state and national politics.

That's not to say Bell was a stranger to controversy. Anyone in the public eye has to endure a high level of scrutiny, and Bell found himself facing allegations of misconduct that later proved to be baseless. What's remarkable, however, is that the lieutenant governor endured this ordeal in the same soft-spoken manner with which he approached every challenge he faced in his professional life. There was no aggrieved sense of martyrdom and no fiery denunciations of his accusers. There was only the patient assurance that the process would clear him in time, which was ultimately what happened. Any officeholder facing scandal in the future ought to follow Bell's stellar example of calm in the face of adversity.

Bell has said he will stay in office until Gov. Gary Herbert chooses his successor, whoever that may be. We hope it will be someone who brings the same level of courtesy and restraint that have made Bell such an effective leader. That's going to be hard to find.

In any case, Utahns should wish the lieutenant governor well in his future endeavors and thank him for his service.