Bell stepping down from Senate early to take TWRA position

Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) attends a redistricting hearing on Oct. 18, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Retiring state Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) is stepping down early to take a position as senior adviser for legislative affairs and policy with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Here’s the release:

(NASHVILLE) The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has named State Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) as the agency’s new Senior Advisor for Legislative Affairs and Policy. A lifelong sportsman and small business owner, Bell will bring a wealth of institutional knowledge and personal experience to the TWRA.  Bell, who had previously announced his intent to retire from the Senate, will resign his seat effective August 31. He begins his new role with the TWRA September 1.

“I look forward to working with TWRA,” said Bell. “For as long as I can remember I have been an avid outdoorsman. I am excited for the opportunity to help advance the agency’s efforts to ensure Tennessee’s rich natural resources can be enjoyed for many future generations.”

“We are excited to welcome Senator Bell to the TWRA family,” said Executive Director Jason Maxedon. “His extensive legislative experience and his passion for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation will make him a valuable team member. We look forward to working with him to advance critical policy to support the conservation and management of wildlife, fisheries, and Tennessee’s waterways.”

Bell was first elected to Tennessee House District 23 in 2006 representing McMinn and Monroe Counties and was subsequently elected to Tennessee Senate District 9 in 2010 representing Brandley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk Counties. 

“Serving in the General Assembly for the last 16 years has been the highest honor of my life,” Bell continued. “I will always be grateful to the citizens in House District 1 and Senate District 9 for the trust they have put in me to represent them in the legislature.”

Bell has been an influential legislator during his tenure in the General Assembly. He has made a significant impact shaping Tennessee’s law around government transparency, Second Amendment rights, and protecting the unborn and victims of crime. Bell has served as Senate Judiciary Chairman since 2019, where he co-sponsored legislation to ensure violent or sexual offenders serve 100% of their court sentence. As part of his work to protect Second Amendment rights, in 2021 Bell carried legislation to ensure Tennesseans can exercise their constitutional right to carry firearms without a permit.  

“Mike Bell has brought a true working-class perspective to the Senate that has been simply invaluable,” said Lt. Governor and Senate Speaker Randy McNally. “An authentic citizen legislator, Mike has served with distinction as chairman of both the Judiciary and Government Operations committees while at the same time owning and operating his own small business. We will miss him terribly in the Senate but I am grateful to know he will not be going far. Mike will be an outstanding advocate for the TWRA. I look forward to working with him as he excels in this new role.”

From 2012 – 2018 Bell chaired the Senate Government Operations Committee where he led legislative oversight for all state government agencies and departments. As Chairman, he worked to improve government transparency by reviewing Tennessee’s open record policies and rules. He also carried legislation to streamline the audit process of state agencies.

In addition to his regular duties as a state legislator, Bell has been an active member and co-chair of the National Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and a member of the Executive Council of the National Association of Sportsmen’s Caucuses.