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Farewell celebration for BOC chair Eldrin Bell

Officials, residents pay tribute to his service

Gail Webb, director of the University of Georgia Clayton County Archway Partnership, presents a proclamation to outgoing county commission Chairman Eldrin Bell on behalf of the city of Riverdale Thursday.

Gail Webb, director of the University of Georgia Clayton County Archway Partnership, presents a proclamation to outgoing county commission Chairman Eldrin Bell on behalf of the city of Riverdale Thursday.

RIVERDALE — “The Bible says to give honor where honor is due,” said Divine Faith International Ministries Bishop Donald Battle.

Battle and a host of local and state officials bid farewell to Clayton County Board of Commissioners’ Chairman Eldrin Bell during a luncheon Thursday held at Riverdale Town Centre.

Bell has served as the county’s commission chairman for eight years. Prior to moving to Clayton County, Bell worked his way up the ranks from Atlanta Police patrolman to Atlanta Police Chief.

Battle worked as an Atlanta Police Detective under Bell.

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Curt Yeomans

Outgoing Clayton County commission Chairman Eldrin Bell (center) bows his head during the opening prayer at his farewell celebration Thursday. Bell's career as an elected official will come to a close when his term ends Dec. 31.

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Curt Yeomans

Outgoing Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell laughs as Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon shares a humorous story about him during a farewell luncheon for the county leader Thursday.

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Curt Yeomans

Outgoing Clayton County commission Chairman Eldrin Bell (right) hugs outgoing commission Vice-Chairman Wole Ralph during Bell's farewell celebration Thursday. Ralph had just read a proclamation praising Bell for his accomplishments.

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Clayton County BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell said he is leaving Clayton County better than he found it.

“I felt that Chief Bell, out of all of his years of service not only as chairman, but as a police chief and a major leader in our community and not just for the last eight years but for 50 years has demonstrated great leadership,” Battle said. “I thought it would be a disgrace not to honor him. When I heard that there was no celebration planned for him, I knew I had to do something. Words cannot express how grateful we are to him. I like his last words, he is leaving Clayton County better than he found it.”

Battle, along with numerous people on hand for the event, talked about their law enforcement and government history with the former chairman.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he wanted to be at the luncheon, because Bell has a life that has been committed to public service.

“[Bell] made extraordinary contributions as our police chief and as chairman of Clayton County,” Reed said. “He has also been a strong partner for the region. He worked alongside Mayor Maynard Jackson and created a great legacy that has continued as he served Clayton County as chairman. We were blessed for a period of his service.”

Following a video presentation featuring Bell participating in county events, the president and CEO of Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, Yulonda Darden Beauford, addressed the crowd.

“Chairman Bell has been a friend and an advocate to Clayton County businesses since he has been in office,” Beauford said. “We look forward to working with him in whatever new venture he becomes involved in.”

Bell thanked the audience for attending the luncheon and he encouraged them to continue doing great things for the county despite people coming against them. Clayton County is a diamond, he said, that has a little coal on it but he said it is a diamond just the same.

“Without flour, you cannot have cake and without water, you cannot have lemonade,” Bell said. “I’m grateful for what you’ve done and I don’t care about who is not here.”

He said President Barack Obama sent his congratulations. Bell added, he spoke with Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday. He is planning to purchase a building in Jonesboro and he said he would like to see more economic development in Forest Park. He boasted on the progress the city of Riverdale has made under the leadership of Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon and city manager, Iris Jessie.

“Remember this: 20 percent of the people will love you, 20 percent of the people will hate you and 60 percent of the people don’t give a damn,” said the former chairman. “Take the 20 percent that want to work with you. My mother said to me leave a thang better than you found it. ”

Wynn-Dixon said she admires Bell for putting people in key positions and for his outstanding community service.

“He is a saved man that loves God and people no matter what, the good the bad and the ugly,” she said. “He did the best he could for the people.”

Bell said he has accomplished much while in office. At the top of his list include acquiring Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds of more than $300 million for Clayton County for construction of senior centers and recreation centers.

“I inherited a budget with a $20 million reserve, yet as I leave they now have a $40 million reserve,” Bell said. “I recommended to the commission board and they voted yes, to give the citizens $5 million back.

Bell said his heart prize was establishing the Senior Citizens Kinship Care program (Grandmothers Raising Grandchildren.)

“Finally, regionally, I fought for transit and will continue to fight for transit that can and will support economic development,” he said.

DeKalb County Public Safety Director Thomas Brown said his relationship with Bell dates back to the early 70’s.

“I was a young Atlanta firefighter and he was a police sergeant,” Brown said. “Our friendship really developed when I was appointed public safety director in 1990 and he was a police chief in Atlanta. ... It was Eldrin Bell who mentored me throughout my law enforcement career.”