Public Service means different things to different people. However for an individual that the City of Toledo is very familiar with, Michael (Mike) Bell, his years of serving in Toledo has spread from Fire Chief, Mayor, State Fire Marshal , and to being one of Toledo’s biggest Cheerleaders. He has spanned the country with the intent to make a difference on purpose.
In this interview speaking with him about the state of affairs in this nation during this time, he was not reluctant to share his personal experiences relating to those many opportunities that others used to exercise their assumed privileges with him. He is passionate about helping others, to the point of taking the time to share his opinion, that may be different from theirs, in an effort to stimulate positive discussions from a diversity perspective. He believes that if things, race relations are going to change and improve, that individuals must do it on a one to one basis, so that real dialogue and understanding can take place.
He is eager to share his life story with others, in an effort to convey a perspective about the need to establish relationships and care about others. This present anger that is being demonstrated in the protests around the country, he believes, is symbolic of what personifies his feelings about being in a place where strangers don’t know you and the results could very well be the same. Getting to know people who don’t look like him is an intentional move on his part, because he believes that this approach is the key to what is a part of God’s plan for each race/person.
One experience that he remembers succinctly is when he and a friend were on a motorcycle trip to North Carolina and being in need of housing. Because the city was not a Metropolitan City, lodging was limited. However, his friend was able to find lodging and he found his way to the hotel where they would spend the evening. Upon getting ready to leave the hotel the next morning, he noticed that a White lady (the Owner) was looking out the window at him profusely, to the point that he approached her and asked if there was a problem. She responded by asking where did he come from. He explained that he and a friend had stayed at their hotel. She shared with him that had she seen him that she would not have provided the room to him because she would not had been comfortable. He spent time talking and sharing with her his life and experiences as being a Black man and by the end of the discussion, she called her husband to meet him and the experience ended I hugs from her. In fact the discussion ended on such a high note that she invited him to return to the hotel.
Mr. Bell stated that unless you take the time to get to know others, there will always be an issue. He went on to state that as it relates to Police Officers, they relate to their own experiences and what they have seen. He believes that people need to get to know and understand the culture of an individual. It is his belief that because of the tragedy of George Floyd, and the fact that his death has impacted the world, becomes an alarm that continues to sound loud and is being heard by those who dared not hear.
His present level of service includes non political work as a volunteer with some of the local non-profits, where he works diligently to help people who need help in changing their lives. He educates as much as he can and is always eager to provide a listening ear. It is no doubt that Mr. Bell has found another niche and enjoys what he is doing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
God bless you sir as you continue to serve his people.