DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Durham Mayor Bill Bell delivered his final State of the City address Tuesday at the American Tobacco Campus.
Reducing crime and poverty in Durham have been two of Bell’s biggest issues.
During the speech, he talked about the city’s progress during the last 16 years under his leadership.
“Crime is not unique to Durham,” he said. “Durham is now the fourth-largest city in the state of North Carolina, behind Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro, we’re very diverse with over a quarter of a million people. As you grow, you’re going to have the challenges as crime comes.”
During his remarks, he pointed out the rise in violent crime in the last four years.
“We’ve got an issue of too many illegal guns in our community in the hands of the wrong people,” Bell said. “We have an issue that for whatever reason, a lot of our young people are going off on a different path.”
Before becoming mayor in 2001, Bell’s wife, Judith, wasn’t on board with the idea, at first. She eventually agreed to one term.
“My own personal belief is that you have to let people do what they love,” she said. “If you love them, then you let them do what they love.”
That one term turned into 16 years.
“He loves Durham and when you truly have someone who loves something, there are no time limits,” said Judith Bell.
Durham is not what it was in 2001.
New buildings and businesses have taken over downtown while Bell has been in office.
“People used to talk about what was happening downtown, how it’s become gentrified, well, my point, there wasn’t anything downtown,” said Mayor Bell. “It wasn’t anything to gentrify.”
Looking to the future, he wants more progress made to reduce poverty and crime throughout the entire city.
“What I hope is, if we’re successful in this area, then we can transfer what we’ve learned into other communities and make those things work also,” Bell said.
During the event, Bell received the first William B. Bell Civic Award, which goes who people who are dedicated to promoting and building Durham.