Rob Bell: Delegate law and order

During his first term in the General Assembly representing the 58th District, Rob Bell discovered one of the advantages of being an elected official: "If I see things in the newspaper that make me angry, I can do something about it," he says.

As an Orange County prosecutor, Bell took the Central Virginia Regional Jail to court for letting convicted felons slide on serving their sentences, only to be stymied by a law that allows such practices. Changing that law was his first order of business upon hitting Richmond.

Bell also discovered that even for seemingly minor requests, state agencies respond to a lot quicker to a call from Delegate Bell than from Joe Constituent.

The downside to his new job is that its pay is part time, but to represent his district requires 20 to 25 hours a week. At the same time, Bell is trying to build a law practice. In some ways, being a delegate hampers that. "I won't do serious criminal cases," says Bell, despite his prosecutorial background.

A Reagan youth, Bell recalls that when the former president came to UVA in 1988, "We camped out like it was a rock concert."

Bell hadn't really intended to run for office until his forties. But when Paul Harris vacated his seat to go to Washington, Bell decided the time was right. And so far, no Democrats have challenged him in this year's run for reelection.

As for the future, Bell says he sees himself still in the General Assembly, but with more seniority. Still, there's a certain wistfulness for his days as a prosecutor.

"Politics is all about compromise and getting 100 people to agree," he explains. "As a prosecutor, once you figure out the facts, you can move straight forward."

And even though the rewards are smaller a prosecutor doesn't affect the whole state "I miss it all the time," says Bell. "It's the only kind of lawyering where you decide what cases you take."

Age: 35

What brought you here? I came here to go to UVA in 1984.

What's worst about living here? That ongoing C-Ville-Hook feud. Can't we all just get along?

Favorite hangout? Amigos restaurant in Woodbrook

Most overrated virtue? Patience

What would people be surprised to know about you?

 Jessica and I have backpacked around Central America.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I wish my Spanish were truly fluent.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? Being elected to the legislative seat once held by Thomas Jefferson.

What do people find most annoying about you? My to-do lists. I keep them everywhere. I'm lousy at vacationing.

Whom do you admire? Winston Churchill, for personal and political courage.

Favorite book? Desolation Island by Patrick O'Brian

What subject causes you to rant? Hypocrisy. Just do what you say.

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Email lets me keep up with my family and college friends.

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? That a third-rate dictator can develop weapons of mass destruction.

What do you drive? A '95 Ford Ranger pickup

What's in your car tape player right now? The Elvis Christmas Album, featuring "Bl-Bl-Blue Christmas." Our tradition is to listen to Elvis while driving around to see Christmas light displays, and I never took it out.

What's your next journey? With the 2003 session done, I'm happy just to be home with my wife and son.

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? I was a regular at Saturday detention in high school. Remember The Breakfast Club? I won't say which character I was, but it certainly wasn't "the jock."

What do you regret? I never did any real traveling until my late 20s. I should have started sooner.

Favorite comfort food? Bodo's everything bagels

What's always in your refrigerator? Diet Cherry 7-Up

Must-see TV? UVA football away games

Favorite cartoon? The Simpsons

 Describe a perfect day. Visit fifth graders and give my "Anyone can get elected" civics talk, meet Jessica and friends for dinner at Thai 99, go home and try (and try) to get Robbie to fall asleep.

Walter Mitty fantasy? Put a traveling band together, like Rabbit in the movie Commitments, then tour the East Coast.

Who'd play you in the movie? James Spader with less hair

Most embarrassing moment? Hearing this jerk on Richmond radio, only to realize that it was my own voice that had been picked up on a committee microphone.

Best advice you ever got? "If you do everything, then you will succeed." Supposedly LBJ.

Favorite bumper sticker? Conserve Water– Drink Virginia Wine


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