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Wesley Bell (mayor)

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Wesley K. Bell (August 31, 1937 – March 25, 2008) was an American Democratic Party politician who served as Mayor of Stafford Township, New Jersey. He ran for higher office numerous times, all without success.

Early life[edit]

Bell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1937 and moved with his parents, Adline and Robert Bell, and four brothers to Ship Bottom, New Jersey in 1940. He graduated from Barnegat High School. He served in the Naval Air Reserve and spent eight years assigned to the Lakehurst Naval Air Station.[1]

Business career[edit]

In 1955, Bell started a billboard advertising company, Wes Outdoor Advertising, Inc., which at one point had more than 150 locations throughout South Jersey. Over the years, he faced considerable litigation after state officials alleged that he failed to get necessary permits.[2] He was cited as the youngest billboard company owner in the United States.[3]

He was issued a patent in 1999 for his invention of both the method and Equipment for the Underwater Salvage of Yachts and small Ships at depths beyond the reach of Divers.[4]

In the mid-2000s, Bell became engaged in a legal battle with state agencies over four fishing boats moored in a Beach Haven West lagoon. The fight ended with the vessels being removed from the water and demolished. Bell mounted a legal fight against both the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, contending that the state wrongfully destroyed his property. Bell was jailed for assaulting a court officer and defying a judicial order.[5]

Political career[edit]

Township Committeeman and Mayor[edit]

Bell was elected to the Stafford Township Committee in 1969 and was re-elected in 1972, 1975 and 1978. During his eleven years as a Committeeman, he served as Mayor four times: 1972-73, 1975 1980-81, and 1983. After a change in the form of government, he became the first directly elected Mayor when he won in 1981.[6]

In 1974, Bell was indicted for misconduct and conspiracy after the Ocean County Prosecutor charged that he interfered with a police investigation of a friend stopped for driving under the influence.[7] The friend was John M. Allen, a reporter for the Press of Atlantic City. Superior Court Judge William Huber declared a mistrial on January 11, 1974 after a jury was unable to agree upon a verdict. Bell was not retried.[8]

In 1983, local voters mounted a campaign to recall Bell. He was recalled on December 6, 1983 and was succeeded by Carl W. Block. Bell mounted a legal challenge to the recall effort; he lost at the Superior Court level, but the Appellate Court accepted Bell's argument that the recall petitions were technically invalid and ordered his reinstatement as Mayor. Soon after, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the first court decision, leaving Block as Mayor.[9][10]

He would later mount four more bids for Mayor, all unsuccessful.

State Senator[edit]

Bell sought the Democratic nomination for New Jersey Senate in 1971, but lost the Democratic primary to John F. Russo by a 76%-24% margin.[11] He ran again in 1973 and finished third in a field of four candidates with 15% of the vote, 3,189 votes behind Russo, who went on to win the General Election.[12]

Bell made a third bid for State Senator in 1981, running for a Senate seat in the 9th Legislative District. The county Democratic Organization supported his bid and he was unopposed in the Democratic Primary.[13] He lost the general election to Republican Leonard T. Connors by a 64%-36% margin.[14]

He mounted his fourth and final State Senate campaign in 1983, seeking a rematch against Connors. He lost the Democratic primary by a 63%-37% margin against Anthony M. Sellitto, Jr.[15]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

In 1974, Bell became a candidate for Congress against the four-term Republican incumbent, Charles W. Sandman Jr., but lost the Democratic primary. He finished fifth in a field of six candidates. The winner of that primary, William J. Hughes, went on to beat Sandman in the general election.[16]

United States Senate[edit]

Bell ran for the U.S. Senate seat of four-term GOP incumbent Clifford Case in 1978, but lost the Democratic primary. The winner was Bill Bradley (59%), who went on to win the seat after Case lost the Republican primary. Bell finished fifth, behind State Treasurer Richard Leone (26%), former State Senator Alexander J. Menza (9%), and Kenneth C. McCarthy (3%). Bell received 2.4%, polling ahead of the sixth candidate, Ray Rollinson (1%).[17]

State Assemblyman[edit]

In 1979, Bell challenged two incumbent Democratic Assemblymen, John Paul Doyle and Daniel F. Newman in the primary. He lost by 4,287 votes, receiving 15%.[18]

Governor of New Jersey[edit]

In 2005, Bell became an Independent candidate for Governor of New Jersey and finished eight out of nine candidates. He received 4,178 votes statewide, which was 0.18% of the total vote.[19]

Death[edit]

Bell died of cardiac arrest on March 25, 2008 during back surgery. He had been injured after falling from a billboard he owned and was trying to repair. He was 70.[20]

References[edit]

  1. Pais, Matt (27 March 2008). "Ex-Stafford mayor Bell dies after fall from billboard, one of many he owned". Asbury Park Press.
  2. Weaver, Donna (27 March 2008). "Wes Bell, Stafford's ex-mayor, dies at 70". Press of Atlantic City.
  3. "Wesley K. Bell, Independent Candidate" (PDF). New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  4. "Wesley K. Bell, Independent Candidate" (PDF). New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  5. Pais, Matt (27 March 2008). "Ex-Stafford mayor Bell dies after fall from billboard, one of many he owned". Asbury Park Press.
  6. "Wesley K. Bell, Independent Candidate" (PDF). New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  7. "Stafford Official Facing Ocean County Trial Today; Bell, Committeeman Supervising Police: Accused of Hampering Investigation into Friend's Automobile Accident". New York Times. 7 January 1974.
  8. "Mistrial Declared in Mayor Bell Case". New York Times. 12 January 1974.
  9. "High Court in Jersey Rules in Stafford Case". New York Times. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  10. Janson, Donald (2 February 1985). "A TOWN WITH 2 MAYORS FINDS MORE IS LESS". New York Times. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  11. "NJ Senate 04A - D Primary". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  12. "NJ State Senate 09 - D Primary". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  13. "NJ State Senate 09 - D Primary". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  14. "NJ State Senate 9". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  15. "NJ State Senate 09 - D Primary". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  16. "NJ District 2 - D Primary". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  17. "NJ US Senate - D Primary". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  18. "NJ General Assembly 09 - D Primary". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  19. ""A historical political resource." Email: Password: Login NJ Governor". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  20. "Former Stafford mayor dies after fall from billboard". The Star-Ledger. 27 March 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2016.


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