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Planning director resigns after 15 years

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By Sam Hickman

 Leslie Bell, Brunswick County’s planning director for 15 years, has resigned.

After his last on the job day Friday, Aug. 30, Bell will begin at his new post in Guilford County, an area almost five times more populous than Brunswick County.

Bell was the planning director in Brunswick County during the area’s massive growth in the mid-2000s. At the time, the county was the 14th fastest growing county in the nation.

“I really enjoyed the challenges,” Bell said. “But I’m going to miss the people the most. Everything we accomplished during those years is a credit to the entire staff. I was very fortunate to have a staff that did most of the heavy lifting.”

Bell began work with Brunswick County government in July 1998 before he accepted a position as the planning director in 1999.

The longtime director was instrumental in developing Brunswick County’s primary planning guide, Unified Development Ordinance, or UDO, during the county’s expansion.

The plan started as a result of Bell’s vision called Brunswick Tomorrow. Bell said he hopes to see continued growth in Brunswick Tomorrow after it was slowed down by the recession in recent years.

“I hope the county can make plans to revisit Brunswick Tomorrow,” he said. “The county will have to determine if the public’s vision for this community is the same as it’s been in years past.”

Alan Lewis, who served on the county’s planning board for more than 16 years before his own resignation last month, said the county lost one of its most valuable assets when Bell decided to leave.

“Leslie will be sorely missed,” said Lewis. “He was instrumental in developing ordinances during the most rapid population growth in the county’s history. There’s not a single doubt he will excel in his new position in (Guilford County). We wish him the best of luck.”

Bell, a native of the Cedar Grove community who returned home 15 years ago after working in Minneapolis, said dramatic improvements made in Brunswick County during his time as planning director would not have been possible without help from everyone involved, including the public.

“It was great having the citizens of Brunswick County involved in the day-to-day planning,” Bell said. “I’d really like to thank everyone for their support. The people of this county, the administration, the different boards I’ve worked with, they’ve all been great.”

 

Sam Hickman is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or shickman@brunswickbeacon.com.