Bell succeeds Col. Michael Gilchrist who is retiring effective Friday, Feb. 1.
"Col. Gilchrist's distinguished service to the patrol and the citizens of North Carolina is truly appreciated," Shanahan said in a news release. "He took the lead at a challenging time for the patrol and he has managed the position with integrity and professionalism."
Gilchrist took over the top job at the Highway Patrol in 2010 following a series of scandals that dogged the department ranging from drunken driving arrests to sending inappropriate text messages.
Bell started with the patrol in 1986. For the last two years, he's overseen all statewide field operations in the department.
"Bell has a breadth of experience and demonstrated leadership skills that make him well-suited for this assignment. He has garnered the respect of his peers as he has risen through the ranks of the patrol over the past 27 years," said Shanahan.
Bell said he will continue to expect the best of his officers.
"I am honored to be given this opportunity by Secretary Shanahan and look forward to re-affirming the high ethical, moral and professional standards expected of the patrol," Bell said.