My Lenoir Magazine: 10 Questions with Rep. John Bell

My Lenoir Magazine
Oct. 3, 2018

Q: Tell us a little about your family.

I am married and have one child. My wife, Kelli, is from Wayne County. We have been blessed with a beautiful little girl, named Averi, and we are both crazy about her.

Q: Tell us about your district. What have you learned about Lenoir County since you took office?

I currently represent Craven, Greene, Lenoir and Wayne counties. First of all, I don’t think people realize how large, geographically, Lenoir County is (roughly 400 square miles). I’ve become very familiar with highways 70, 258, 58, 55 and 11. Secondly, the people of Lenoir County are amazing! I’ve gotten to know and work with many of these wonderful people. They have embraced me as one of their own, and it’s been an honor to represent them in Raleigh.

Q: How did you get involved with politics?

I’ve always followed politics and found it interesting. While I was younger, I had the chance to meet many of our elected leaders. As I grew in age, I began serving on various community boards, and I learned more about the issues facing our area. In 2007, I experienced trial by fire when I volunteered to manage a NC House campaign for a family friend, Efton Sager. Two years later, I worked to get Sen. Louis Pate elected, and was elected Vice Chairman of the Wayne County Republican Party. I then ran for State House in 2012.

Q: You had a career in the Boy Scouts. Tell us about that and how it has influenced you as a leader.

I am an Eagle Scout, and I was very blessed to start my professional career with the Tuscarora Council, BSA. I covered Duplin and Sampson counties for the council. Working with the boy scouts afforded me the opportunity to learn organizational skills, time management, the ability to work with and listen to people, and the fundamentals of fundraising. Being active in the Boy Scouts of America really helped prepare me for the career I have today.

Q: Walk us through what it’s like in the day in the life of the House Majority Leader?

When we’re in session the days start early and end late! It’s my job to organize, unite and execute the House Republican Caucus agenda. It can be difficult to get all 75 members on the same page. It’s my job to listen and learn about the members’ concerns, find a consensus within the caucus, then work with the Speaker to negotiate with the Senate. When you serve as House Majority Leader no two days are the same and you get pulled in many directions. I’m very blessed to have a knowledgeable staff that serves the district and the caucus.

Q: Politics at the national level can seem confrontational at times, how do you describe the working relationship between our elected officials at the local level and in the capitol building?

I make sure that all lines of communication are open. We all must remember that we represent people with many of the same interests. Representing rural districts, we must be willing to work together. We have so much at stake. People are going to disagree at times, just like families. We must be able to work through disagreement to take care of the people we represent.

Q: What is something you’ve learned about living and working in Eastern North Carolina?

After high school I was like many young people, I wanted to move away. I did just that, but I learned the saying is true, “there’s no place like home!” There’s nothing better than living, working and raising a family in Eastern North Carolina!

Q: If you could snap your fingers and change one thing locally, what would it be and why?

Create more good-paying jobs, and lower property taxes. Those things help grow communities. I have yet to meet anyone that wanted to pay higher taxes.

Q: If we were going to run into you outside the capitol building or your working hours, where might we bump into you in town and what would you be doing?

My family likes eating lunch in downtown Kinston, and getting ice cream at Inside Scoop. My daughter loves playing with the little train set at H Stadiem, and watching the fish at Neuse Sport Shop.

Q: What new exciting thing is coming down the pipeline that you would love to brag about and let people know?

I can tell you that a large group of lawmakers are really fired up and motivated to help find a better way to handle disaster relief at the federal, state and local levels. Regardless of party affiliation, I think we can all agree it is unacceptable for these families to still be waiting for relief two years later. I know the discussions have started, and I really have hope that we will join hands to find a better way, and say “never again.”

Bonus question: What changes would you like to see take place locally to help improve the overall quality of life for the residents of Lenoir County and North Carolina?

I would like to be able to work with other rural lawmakers to help economic development in Lenoir County, and other rural areas. The urban-rural divide is a real issue, and population losses continue to hurt our small towns, as their tax base shrinks. I would like to see Kinston and Lenoir County lower their property taxes – allowing them to be more competitive for new businesses and homes. New construction is the lifeblood of communities. I have heard economists say the private sector needs to provide new buildings, new jobs, and new families for the long-term success of a community.