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From serving in the military to becoming an educator, Warren Keith Bell has done things he said he never intended to do — including becoming the District 3 successor on city council to Carl Ferebee.

On Tuesday Bell took the oath of office along with Sandra Bryant, who ran unopposed, and Rex Stainback, who faced opposition from two challengers in last month’s municipal elections.

Before the start of the meeting Bell said, Ferebee had approached him about six years ago regarding his interest in running for council. “I told him I was working full time, running schools — I was a principal and then I became head administrator of a charter school — so I was busy doing that. Finally in 2023 he said, ‘Well, you’re retired now so will you think about it?’ I told him, ‘Yeah, I think I can probably do it now because I’m not tied down by the job and I have this free time which I can donate.’”

Bell retired in June of 2022 after 33 years in education — a little bit less than half as a teacher and a little bit over half as a principal or administrator.

Before that Bell had retired from the military. He was in active duty reserves and retired from that in 2005.

(During the organizational portion of the meeting, Stainback nominated Councilman Wayne Smith to be mayor pro tempore, the position that Ferebee had held since 2008. “I’m thankful that the council thought I could handle the position,” Smith said. “I look forward to doing it.” Stainback said of Smith, “He is the senior member of the council. I felt like he was in line to follow through and he had the most experience.”)

As far as taking the council seat, Bell said, “I don’t know everything. I know there are some things I will have to learn. There are a lot of things that are very generic to what I did as a principal and school administrator. The other thing is there are a lot of people who have skill-sets that are better than mine that when they retire they have an opportunity to give back to the community and they’re not willing to put the time in.”

Also in the gallery, Bryant and Stainback are administered the oaths office:

Bell believes if there are issues, they just don’t affect the ones who decided not to serve. “They affect me and my community, they affect me and my family so if you know that you have time and you might have skills needed to solve those things, why not go out there and help?”

Bell said he wants to see more affordable housing in the city, especially for people who come to the area to work. “That is a big draw when you get the best qualified people to come in. They want to know where they’re going to be living, what schools their children will be going to and safety and things of that sort.”

He said the affordable housing issue is also a big draw for people who are bringing in businesses to the community. “They want to be able to have them situated so when they come in they already know that’s taken care of by the local government.”

Bell also wants to make sure communities in the city remain as safe as possible as well as improving on that safety — “Just making things better because if you’re always satisfied with where you’re at you never sometimes get where you need to be.”

He said he needs to delve more in how to address the city’s remaining theater debt. “We need to research and see who’s had similar situations and see what they did. You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel — you just need to see what the different types of wheels are and see which one fits you best.”

Bell said Ferebee has had a lot of influence over him, especially in the last 15 or 20 years. “We talk quite a bit. Sometimes we talk three or four times a week. We’ve had a lot of conversations about things that are very cerebral, especially government and especially about trends that are going on — things that might make this better or this may resolve some things.”

Asked if he was looking forward to serving, Bell said, “I never envisioned myself doing it. But the thing about it is my whole life has been in things that I said I would never do. I said that I would never go into the military and between active duty and reserves I did about 21 years. Then I said I would never be a teacher … and then at 29-years-old I decided to be a teacher and I taught for 14 and was an administrator for 19. So everything I’ve said (I wouldn’t do) I ended up doing.

“You can always say where your path might lead you … I never saw myself doing this but other people see things that you can’t see for yourself a lot.”

During the meeting, Bell, with his wife Dianne by his side, took the oath of office administered by Superior Court Judge Brenda Branch.