The Northwoods River News published an article on Saturday stating that Bell was leaving his job and had accepted the job in Montrose.
Elsa Anderson, human resources director for the city, said she couldn’t confirm who had been selected, because she had not received a signed contract yet.
Bell said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he planned to sign his contract and fax it to the city Tuesday afternoon, but it won’t be official until the Montrose City Council gives final approval to the document at its June 7 meeting.
That confirmation seems to be merely a formality, given the extensive nationwide search conducted by the city. At a special meeting last week, the council voted to offer the job to the top three candidates, known only as Candidates A, B and C.
Bell, who was Candidate B, said he was happy in Rhineland, and wasn’t really looking for a job, but found out about it while surfing the internet one day when he was bored. He said he couldn’t resist applying for a job so close to his hometown.
“I was born in Delta and my family had dairy farms in Cedaredge and Clifton,” he said.
Bell moved away from the area halfway through his freshman year at Clifton High after his parents’ divorce.
Bell has been a city manager for nine years, starting in Grant, Neb., and then for Turtle Lake, Wisc., before going to Rhinelander. He graduated from the University of Wyoming in Laramie, with degrees in administration of justice and psychology.
He then started law school at Pepperdine University but decided to go back to Laramie, where he received a masters degree in public administration.
He said he’s glad he didn’t become a lawyer.
“I get to deal with the legal stuff without having to do paperwork all day long,” he said.
With a population of about 8,000, Rhinelander is smaller than Montrose, but Bell said there are many similarities.
“We love Rhinelander and it’s very comparable to Montrose,” he said.
Bell said his wife Melanie, a recreational therapist, is already working with local realtors to find a home for them and their two children, daughter Sydney, who’s almost 3, and their son Connor, who is 6. Bell said he’ll be here in July, and his wife and children will join him in August after spending time with her parents this summer.
He applied for the position in February, in what he called “a long process but a good process.” He said he plans to use Montrose’s search model to look for his own replacement in Rhinelander.
In the meantime, he said he’s been studying issues facing the city, and learned a lot from Montrose residents when the city hosted a recent public reception for the top five candidates.
But most of all, he’s glad to be coming home, as he told the Rhinelander paper.
"I saw my hometown was hiring its first [new] city manager in 30 years," he said. "It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."