'Durham is a good place now,' says outgoing mayor Bill Bell

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
A new chapter for longtime Durham Mayor Bill Bell
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Longtime Durham Mayor Bill Bell is proud of his accomplishments but ready to spend more time with family.

DURHAM, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Durham is beginning a new era without one of its enduring leaders.

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Bill Bell has spent 45 years in public service to the city and county, but it's coming to an end in two weeks when he steps down as Durham's mayor. He's held the position for 16 years.

"I just think it's the right time," Bell said, and he added that he is ready to spend time with his wife, children and six grandchildren.

In the course of his tenure, Bell has participated in dozens of ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings on major developments and established partnerships with dignitaries, personalities, and presidents.

Bell said his work in office was a collaboration with fellow city leaders to put Durham on the map.

"Durham is a good place now," Bell said.

RELATED: Heroes in the Park honors Bell's legacy

ABC11 asked Bell if his story of leadership became a movie, what would he call it.

"Change. Positive change," Bell replied. He added that actor Denzel Washington would star in the title role.

The most visible changes under Bell's leadership are the revitalization to downtown and some inner-city neighborhoods, such as Southside.

RELATED: Mayor Bill Bell gives last State of the City message

Bell said the city's successes during his tenure include the Durham Performing Arts Center, a plan to increase affordable housing, and a 10-year strategy to reduce poverty.

But there were challenges. Bell said it has been tough to stabilize crime rates.

And then there was Durham's biggest scandal - the 2006 Duke lacrosse case.

"I think we dealt with it as a community, and I think we're all better for it. In terms of the two relationships we have with the two universities and the relationships we have with the community," Bell said.

It's a community he said is better off now than when he began.

Moving forward, Bell said he is looking forward to spending time with his family, and watching Durham's new chapter unfold.

"To the residents of Durham I want to say thank you. It's been an honor and a privilege," Bell said. "It's one that I have taken very seriously. And if I had to do it over again, I would do it over again. It's been great."

Bell's last day in office is December 4. Mayor-elect Steve Schewel will be sworn-in on that day.

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