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Bell looking for opportunities to improve Senate District 11

Newly elected state Sen. Lance Bell says he’s gathering information.

The Riverside resident and attorney in Pell City has been involved in county and regional GOP politics for more than a decade, serving as chair of the St. Clair party and the 3rd Congressional District GOP executive committee. But the Senate District 11 spot was Bell’s first run for public office and he said he’s trying to get ahead of a learning curve so that he can best serve the district.

“Just like a new commissioner coming in or a new city councilman,” Bell told Alabama Daily News. “… It’s learning what opportunities are available to the district that I can provide or help assist with.”

The private-practice attorney for 18 years and former assistant district attorney said he’s been studying previous state General Fund and education budgets, so he’ll be familiar with the documents when he sees new drafts in the 2023 session. And he’s been learning more about issues in the three-county district. Some of them are acute — he recently visited the site of the landfill fire in Moody that’s been burning for weeks — and some are chronic, like the shortage of medical first responders in St. Clair County. 

Bell is a native of St. Clair County and he and his wife are now raising their sons there.

After dropping them off at school one day earlier this month, Bell said the 13- and 10-year-old boys are a big part of why he decided to seek his first elected office.

“The main thing is, I’ve got a 13-year old and a 10-year-old, if it’s not me, who is trying to look out for their future?” he said.

Senate District 11 includes portions of St. Clair, Talladega and Shelby counties. The seat was open this year when five-term lawmaker Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, didn’t seek reelection. Bell won about 66% of the vote in the GOP primary to secure the seat. 

“Senator Bell is as well-qualified as they come,” Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said. “He is eager to learn, yet equally willing to engage in and contribute to the process.”

“Lance worked his way through college and law school at the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office. He has served as a prosecutor and Municipal Judge and currently has an extensive private legal practice. Needless to say, he brings a unique perspective to the Senate and I am confident he will be an asset on day one.”

Q & A with Lance Bell:

Q: This was your first run for elected office. Why this office? What made you run for state senate?

“I’ve always been involved locally with politics. Several years ago, I worked on some local legislation for St. Clair County and I’ve always made some trips here and there to the State House and been involved and very up to date with our legislators around here. I knew that Sen. McClendon was retired and it’s something I’ve always looked at, trying to serve in that capacity,  so I decided to run for it.” 

Q: You won your primary pretty handily. What was your message to voters?

 “The voters already knew me. I’ve been so involved in my community for many years, I did not have to go out and introduce myself to the voters. It wasn’t like I was a stranger coming out to tell them anything, they already knew what I stood for. They knew what I fought for. …The community already knew who I was.”

Q: Who are you? What do you stand for?

“Just common sense, conservative … just try to help each other. If we’re going to succeed in the future, we’ve got to work together and make it better for our children growing up than what we had growing up. Make the education system better, make everything that this involves them better to make them better people .… 

“I want more for my kids than was available to me when I was growing up.”

Q: What does that look like,  more for your children?

“Better opportunities locally in St. Clair County, Talladega and Shelby counties. Growing our economic development,  growing our infrastructure to provide better opportunities for them to stay home and raise their family here in the district.”

Q: You obviously know St. Clair County well. Was there a little bit of a learning curve with Talladega and Shelby counties? 

No, not really, because all three counties think  alike to a certain degree, all three counties are very conservative Republican counties. Through my involvement in the Republican Party, I was very familiar with a lot of people in the counties and familiar with the areas and I think I’m lucky that all three districts kind of share the same values.

Q: You’ve said before you want to work on infrastructure and economic development. Are those needs across the district?

“Definitely in St. Clair and Talladega counties, Shelby County a little farther ahead on parts of that. And St. Clair’s got some and Talladega has got some different opportunities I think that we’ve got to expand on in both counties.”

Q: You mentioned a learning curve as a new lawmaker. You were at the new legislator orientation this month. Was that helpful?

“Very, very helpful. Lots of materials and since then, there’s been a lot of reading. I’ve taken the last three years of the General Fund budget and education budget and been trying to go through those so that when I first see it during the session, I’m not sitting there with a blank stare on my face. I’m trying to educate myself right now on things that I’ve just never looked at or been a part of.”

Q: I read in an Anniston Star profile on you back in the summertime that one concern of yours was funding and resources for emergency services, particularly like medical responders. How did that come to be on your radar?

“We have a veterans’ home here in Pell City and if a veteran goes across the street to the hospital, sometimes there are hours-long waits to be able to transport that veteran back to the veterans’ home. … Then talking to the ambulance companies, I learned they’re having trouble finding people to work the ambulances. That is a real concern in this area and something that I did not know until I was running. I had no clue that that was a bad concern and it’s a statewide concern…

“We have a great county fire association in St. Clair County and they hold a meeting once a month and the ambulance service comes to the meeting and they’re all trying to figure out together what to do and the challenges in trying to figure how to address those challenges. This is a safety issue for our citizens.”

Q: Committee assignments will be announced next month. What committees are you hoping to be on?

“Judiciary and Tourism. We have Talladega Superspeedway is in my district, which is a great asset for promoting tourism, so I hope to be on the Tourism Committee. And then from there, I’m just willing to serve on whatever they ask me to.”

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