retirement

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.

Democrat Stewart to retire from state House

Rep Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) speaks to reporters on the House floor in Nashville on May 1, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Mike Stewart, a former House Democratic caucus chair from Nashville, announced he is retiring from the General Assembly. Under initial Republican redistricting plans, Stewart was going to be drawn together with fellow Democrat John Ray Clemmons. But the majority party relented in a last-minute change, leaving the two incumbents in their own districts.

Here’s Stewart’s statement:

NASHVILLE — Today Mike Stewart announced in a Facebook Live appearance on the Tennessee Holler that he is not running for the state house seat he has held since 2008.  “I consider the opportunity to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly as one of the great honors of my life and I am grateful to all the people who have helped me along the way,” Stewart said.

Stewart intends to shift his political energy to protecting America’s democratic system, which is under serious internal attack for the first time since the 1850’s.  “We are facing a threat that I never expected to deal with during my lifetime; a former President and his followers attempting to invalidate a Presidential election and with it the system we use in this country to allow the people to choose their leaders.  I was one of those who mistakenly thought that President Trump was just being a sore loser when he made claims of election fraud; now it has been revealed that those claims were part of an orchestrated effort to cancel the 2020 election, thwart the will of the people and retain political control illegally.  It is the sort of thing that I expected to see only in other countries and in science fiction movies,” Stewart observed.

“As a lawyer and a person who has been deeply involved in elections for many years, I hope to do what I can to protect the democratic process in the upcoming 2022 and 2024 elections,” Stewart observed.  Specifically, I will be working with leaders around the nation to ensure that polling places are adequately monitored to prevent false claims of fraud, working to ensure that state legislatures are not controlled by anti-democratic leaders, and working to develop legal strategies to check those who continue to make false statements undermining our system of elections.”  

“Many citizens I’m talking to are feeling overwhelmed and defeated.  They grew up in the world’s most stable and admired democracy, and now see a former President, as well as Senators and Congressmen, debasing themselves on national television repeating claims they know are entirely untrue.  I plan to do everything I can to ensure that such people are not allowed to tamper further with our sacred system of elections so that the people have a fair opportunity to repudiate such irresponsible and, ultimately, immoral leadership.  Many are talking about the threat; it is time to develop concrete plans to respond to it on a state-by-state level.”

Stewart added, “I’d like to close this chapter by saying it has been a privilege to serve the people in House District 52 and I intend to continue fighting for you, as well as the rest of the country, in my new role.”