SALT LAKE CITY -- The announcement that Lt. Gov. Greg Bell has stepped down from office shocked local leaders at all levels. Bell said Monday he will leave office to return to the private sector so he can save money for retirement.
"He will be sorely missed," said Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs.
Bell said in a phone interview with the Standard-Examiner that he will stay in office until his replacement has been confirmed.
He said he submitted a list of names of people he thought "would fit the bill" to Gov. Gary Herbert.
Bell graduated from Ogden High School in 1966 and from Weber State College in 1972. He went on to get his law degree from S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. He practiced law while specializing in real estate development and finance.
Bell was elected as city councilman of Farmington, then served as mayor of that city. He was later elected as a state senator and then moved to Fruit Heights.
Farmington Mayor Scott Harbertson said when Bell was mayor, Farmington was going through a transitional phase. There was not a lot of commercial development at that time.
Bell was instrumental in making sure open spaces were part of any development in the west part of Farmington, Harbertson said.
Harbertson said he was surprised when he heard the news that Bell was stepping down from public office.
"I understand the situation. Lt. Gov. Bell has put in a lot of public service," Harbertson said. "He's been a great, great public servant, and I admire him for what he has been able to do and accomplish."
Bell said in his phone interview that the recession was not kind to developers, including himself. He has been trying to finance one project through his personal income, but it has not been going well.
And Bell said he turns 65 next month, which had him looking at his retirement years.
"Like a lot of baby boomers, that cushion is not there," Bell said. "It's time to look at my family's long-term needs."
The Utah lieutenant governor's job pays $105,000 a year plus benefits.
Bell said he does not have any job offers at this time.
"I don't have a position. I do not want to use the office to trade for a job, so I'm going to have to buff up my resume and see what's out there," Bell said.
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said he was sad when he heard the news.
Bell "is my first cousin and he's a wonderful individual," Jenkins said. "He's been a voice of calm."
Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, said he has worked with Bell on many issues and will miss him. But he understands the decision to leave public life and pursue a career in the private sector.
"This is a definite loss to our executive branch," Froerer said. "Whoever replaces him will have some big shoes to fill."
Janis Vause, executive director of the Ogden School Foundation, said Bell was instrumental in helping the district raise $9 million for the renovation of Ogden High School's auditorium.
"He was very generous with his time," Vause said.
Brad Mortensen, vice president for university advancement with Weber State University, said Bell always "looked out for his alma mater. He made sure there were great programs for the students. He is a great friend of Weber and we're certainly going to miss him."
Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said he and Bell have worked together since the first day both were sworn in as mayors in their respective cities.
"He's still an icon in the Senate," Stevenson said.
Bell is able to look at the facts of an issue and not let emotions distract him, Stevenson said.
Gov. Gary Herber said in a statement that Bell's departure will leave a hole in his administration.
"Greg Bell has worked incredibly hard and sacrificed a great deal," Herbert said. "He has given every measure in dedicated public service, not just the past four years, but throughout his career."
Herbert picked Bell for the job in 2009. Herbert had been lieutenant governor before becoming the state's top executive when then-governor Jon Huntsman resigned to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.
Bell was assistant majority whip in the state Senate at the time.
In the state Legislature, Bell was considered a moderate who was best known for pursuing ethics reforms and sponsoring an unsuccessful bill that would have extended some legal rights to gay couples.
Contact reporter Loretta Park at 801-625-4252 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LorettaParkSE.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.