Former Richmond City Councilman Gary Bell died at age 54 early Thursday morning, nearly nine months after suffering a severe bacterial sinus infection that led to multiple brain surgeries.
Bell, who served on the City Council from 2000 to 2005 and was elected again to the council last fall, was hospitalized just days after the Nov. 6 election, according to family members and city officials.
Doctors performed at least two neurosurgeries to address Bell's severe sinus infection and induced a medical coma during treatment.
"It's a real tragedy. He was a young guy and he just got elected and never got a chance to serve that second term," said Councilman Tom Butt, who served on the council with Bell.
Prior to the illness, Bell was president and CEO of the Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union in Berkeley and had worked for 15 years as vice president and branch manager of a Bank of the West in Richmond, according to his 2012 campaign website.
During his time on the City Council, Bell oversaw major redevelopment projects including a $106 million grant that "demolished a 240-unit crime-plagued HUD public housing project and replaced it with 142 affordable housing units," according to a statement on his campaign website.
Councilman Jael Myrick was appointed in February to fill Bell's seat on the council.
Bell is survived by his wife, Shelley Ross-Bell, and two adult sons, Gary Bell Jr. and Germaine Bell.
Family members said Thursday morning that they plan to release a statement later Thursday and have not yet made funeral arrangements.
The city released the following statement
The City of Richmond was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Gary Bell.
Mr. Bell served as an elected member of the City Council from 2001 through 2004, and was again elected to the Council in November 2012. Unfortunately, Mr. Bell’s tragic illness prevented him from being sworn in to the second term of office conferred upon him by Richmond voters.
Beyond his service as a City Councilmember, Mr. Bell was a respected community leader with a strong belief in the vast potential of the City of Richmond. He was committed to the goals of economic development, job growth, and bringing new investment to downtown Richmond. He was especially well known throughout City Hall for his financial acumen, and was well admired for his collegiality and outstanding character.
He will be missed by the entire City of Richmond family. Our most sincere thoughts and best wishes go out to Mr. Bell’s family during this very difficult time.