Retiring Tennessee State Senator Mike Bell Talks About Why He’s Leaving and Plans For the Future


Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee State Senator Mike Bell (R-District 9) in studio to discuss why he decided to not run for re-election. 

Leahy: In studio with me, the mayor of Maury County, that bastion of freedom, that turbocharged engine of economic growth, Andy Ogles. Good morning, Andy.

Ogles: Good morning.

Leahy: And the big story, in studio with us, I can’t believe this happened yesterday. It was a shock, a surprise, a disappointment. But I’m sure there’s a good reason. The man who just announced he’s not running for re-election from the state Senate, our very good friend, State Senator Mike Bell. Good morning, Mike.

Bell: Hi. Good morning. Good morning. I appreciate you having me this morning.

Leahy: The big question. Here you are, one of the great champions of limited government, one of the great champions of conservatism in the Tennessee General Assembly. There are 33 members of the state Senate.

You have been a real hero to the conservative cause since you were elected to the state Senate in 2010 and before that in the General Assembly from 2006.

I am particularly delighted with your service because you are one of the blue-collar guys. And how many blue-collar guys are there in the state Senate? One, right?

Bell: One. That’s right. (Laughter)

Leahy: And by the way, not just one but probably the best common-sense guy in the state Senate, and I think it’s because of that blue-collar background. You have a business and you work hard. So there I am. Minding my own business yesterday.

Just minding my own business. And then all of a sudden, this shock news announcement from you, State Senator Mike Bell, you’re not running for reelection in 2022. To paraphrase Jay Leno. What were you thinking? (Chuckles)

Bell: What was I thinking? Well, take you back to the early 2000s, when I first got involved in what was going on up here in the legislature, working with the Home School Association from 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. Before I was elected. People tend to forget we’re a red state now. We were not a red state for 20 years.

Leahy: We didn’t get to become a red state.

Bell: No.

Leahy: Until guys like you ran for the General Assembly and got elected. We’ve been a red state at the state legislature, I guess, since 2010 with an asterisk. Twelve without an asterisk. You’re doing the home school stuff.

Bell: And following legislation and just keeping my business going, raising five children at that time. And of course, they’re all grown and gone now.

I’ve got my sixth grandchild on the way, and I really felt like it was time to run. I don’t want to sound too spiritual, but God told me it was time to run. Time to get involved and throw myself out there.

Leahy: You had a calling.

Bell: Yeah, I did. But I could say that I feel that way now that it’s time to leave.

Leahy: So what happened? I’m a very selfish person, State Senator Mike Bell. (Bell laughs) And so I want the good guys to win. And I know if you’re in the state Senate, my views of limited government will be championed. And you’ve been there for a while. You know the ropes, right?

Bell: I do.

Leahy: Now you are leaving the state Senate and you’re not running for election in 2022. Conservatives around the state, we are saddened by this departure. Why did you decide to leave now?

Bell: And I appreciate that. But I will tell you something. It’s going to sound a little boring. I’ll be 59 in March. I’ve been doing as you’ve already referenced, blue-collar physical labor for the last 30 years.

Leahy: Okay, that’s 30 years.

Bell: And I know this is going to sound, it is what it is. I’m getting so old, I almost can’t do that anymore. My wife sees it when I come home and I’m dragging my right leg behind me because I need hip replacement surgery now.

And just things like that and looking toward you don’t make a lot of money in the legislature. I’m not saying that you should make a lot of money, but you don’t.

Leahy: A number one. That is a fact. B my view. One of the reasons why the Tennessee General Assembly is so much better than many other state legislatures like, oh, I don’t know. California, New York, and I’ve even had Ohio.

Those are all full-time gigs. And so you get that gig and you sort of getting disconnected from the people. That doesn’t happen in Tennessee because you are a citizen legislator and you got to make a living.

Bell: You do. You’ve either got to be independently wealthy, retired, or have a very unique job situation where you can’t do this. You can’t be a state legislator and have a nine-to-five job back home. It just doesn’t work.

And so looking at those things, looking at where I am in life, where my family is in life for me, I need to spend these last few years when I say last few years, I’m 59. But when I say these last few years of productive life. It could be another 15 years. Who knows?

Leahy: Well, in your case, it’ll be at least 25 years. Maybe 30.

Bell: I’m making a little money and taking care of my family as I go toward retirement.

Leahy: So what you’re thinking is because you’re running your business, pressure washing. You’re working hard at that every day. You’ve been doing that for 30 years. Plus, you’re in the state legislature.

I guess what I take then is when you retire from the state Senate. Does that mean you’re going to retire from the pressure washing business?

Bell: Probably so. I’m looking for something else.

Leahy: I’m feeling that. And so you may have an opportunity to sell your pressure washing business?

Bell: That and I’ve got some friends back home who I helped them along. In fact, I’ve got two guys I got in the business a long time ago, and I’ll work with them.

Leahy: That makes sense. January 2023. You’re not in the state Senate. You’re probably not in the pressure washing business anymore. What is Mike Bell doing?

Bell: I don’t know yet.

Leahy: You don’t?

Bell: I don’t know yet.

Leahy: What kind of things would you like to do?

Bell: I’m not sure. I’m going to tell you I’ve got some ideas, but I’m not going to announce anything.

Leahy: Well, let me just say, Andy, I think this guy is very good on the radio.

Ogles: I’ve had the privilege of my career to spend a lot of time working with the Tennessee General Assembly and general assemblies across the country. And when I think back on my career and I think of who are those legislators, not only Tennessee but across the country that really stand out and just kind of on my favorite list?

Mike Bell, you come to mind. I mean, you are at the top of that list. And I saw the news and I told my wife I was like, do you remember Mike Bell and some of the bills that we worked on together?

And I was like, he’s leaving. And she’s like, oh, no. Now, what are we going to do now? So my only challenge to you would be to recruit somebody good. And I know that’s not your responsibility.

Bell: But I have been working on that and talking about it.

Ogles: But you have been a champion, and I appreciate your service to this state.

Bell: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Leahy: It’s like the next chapter, right?

Bell: It is. It’s the next chapter. And again, as I said in 2006, as much as I felt like it was time to run then I think it’s time to get out now.

Leahy: It is. You’ve been in the state legislature now for what, 15 years?

Bell: It’ll be 16 at the end of my term.

Leahy: That’s a long time to serve in the state legislature. That’s for sure.

Bell: Our wives can read us better than anybody, Andy. And my wife sometimes she’ll tell me that you have trouble turning it off sometimes at home. And I need to either learn to do that or learn to cope with it a little better.

Leahy: You’re not sharing yet. But you do have a gleam in your eye. Don’t you see that in the gleam in the eye? (Laughter) Our listeners can’t see it, Andy.

Ogles: Let me tell you, being in public service is a challenge under normal circumstances. These last two years, in particular, it’s been tough to be in elected office whether you’re a commissioner or county mayor, we’re burdened with a lot of big decisions. A lot of pressure on the General Assembly.

Bell: School board members.

Ogles: The school board. Oh, my goodness. You see that you’re seeing that in Congress. I think part of that is due to the power shift that is presumed to take place in 2022.

But I think a lot of folks who have served and kind of put in their time. It’s like I’ve done what I felt like I was called to do. And now it’s time to turn the page.

Leahy: And do something else.

Ogles: Another chapter or a new book. But I commend you.

Bell: Thank you. That’s what our legislature was meant to be.

Leahy: Citizen legislators.

Bell: And at the state level, we were meant to go serve a time and come home. It happens more so in the legislature. I still hear people say we need term limits in Tennessee. And I haven’t looked at it since two years ago, 80 percent of the House had served less than six years.

That’s how much turnover we have in the legislature. Senate was a little more stable. But I think out of 33 members. And I’ve been there twelve years next year, I’m like number six or seven in seniority out of 33 members.

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.















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One Thought to “Retiring Tennessee State Senator Mike Bell Talks About Why He’s Leaving and Plans For the Future”

  1. william delzell

    If he is today’s typical Tennessee Republican, then I say good riddance to bad rubbish! They all all ought to be run out of state!