SALT LAKE CITY — Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell announced Monday he will step down after more than four years in office because paying the debt on a years-old real estate investment has eroded his savings and his state salary isn’t paying the bills.
Bell disclosed the investment liability to Governor Gary Herbert when he was appointed to the state’s second-highest executive job. He says he had hoped the economic upturn would allow him to liquidate his last remaining property, but it has remained an unsold drain on his finances.
“I was able to work through most things but I’ve had one property that I’ve not been able to liquidate so I’ve had to service that debt and it’s become such that I can’t continue. My resources are tapped out,” Bell told Fox 13.
Bell came into office with the reputation as a straight-forward moderate with a lot of experience and respect in the legislature.
He began his political career on the Farmington City Council, then became Mayor of the Davis county seat and went on to serve in the State Senate prior to his appointment to the post of Lt. Governor.
Bell was considered an active Lt. Governor given large responsibilities along with his constitutional role as the chief elections officer for the state. He oversaw budget negotiations with the legislature, health care policy, and a rural initiative.
It was his work in rural areas that came to mind when Fox 13 asked what made him most proud.
“I’ve spent a lot of time out there and that’s not something that gets in papers or on TV, but they have a different economy, and they tend to suffer more in the downturns. They don’t get the big booms that we’ve enjoyed along the Wasatch Front,” Bell said.
The Governor says he won’t expect a replacement to fill Bell’s shoes completely.
“I’m losing a friend that I enjoyed working with every day. Somebody I have great admiration and respect for. Somebody who’s very capable,” said Herbert.
But the Governor said he respects Bell’s decision and will move quickly to find a replacement. He said he already has a short list of “four or five” names, though he would not reveal them publicly.
“We’ll continue to do the work of the people of Utah in a professional fashion,” Herbert said. “That being said I hope we make the decision by the first part of October so they can be confirmed with our interim study meetings in October.”
Bell ran into criticism this year when the State Human Services Director resigned after penning a letter complaining Bell had tried to influence a Child and Family Services case in Davis County.
But elected officials, including Herbert and Senate leaders rallied around Bell. The investigation that followed found no wrongdoing on Bell’s part.
Bell, 64, has served as the Lieutenant Governor of Utah since September 1, 2009. He will continue with the job until his successor is sworn in.