Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series on new officials in Box Butte County following the 2018 General Election as they begin their terms this year.
Some people just want to sit down and have coffee, Box Butte County Treasurer Valery Bell told the commissioners Monday morning while discussing her interaction with the public in the context of courthouse improvements.
Voters elected Bell as treasurer as she ran unopposed in 2018. Hired as a clerk in August 2007, Bell moved to deputy treasurer a couple years later. After a decade in the office she replaced County Treasurer Kim Burke-Smith, who did not file for re-election.
Bell is introduced below, with answers to a series of interview questions:
Valery (Elder) Bell grew up in Valentine before moving to Hemingford and graduating from high school there. Bell attended cosmetology school in Fremont before deciding, “that wasn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.” She moved back to the Alliance area and married Chad Bell in 2004; the couple has two sons — Gavin and Gattlen.
“Chasing the kids at their sporting events,” Bell said, is one thing that keeps her busy as spending time with family is a priority. She also enjoys time outdoors (camping in the summer), hanging out with friends and “a good book now and then.”
• Why did you run for county treasurer?
“I love getting to work with and for the people of Box Butte County,” Bell said. She joked that her favorite is getting to see people once a year as they opt to come in person to pay taxes, or perhaps renew vehicle plates. “Every day there’s a curve ball thrown our way, a bit of a challenge,” she said. “… as far as timing I thought it was a good place (in my life) at work and at home …”
• Experience/background to draw from?
Bell worked to expand her knowledge and training, especially in serving as deputy treasurer. She first earned county treasurer certification in 2013 then again in 2017. That designation requires a set number of continuing education hours and takes into account experience among other factors. Bell explained certification is typically gained by treasurers (who are elected officials) and is more rare for deputies to pursue.
• Issues to address?
There is not really a “hot button” item, Bell said. However, her office, and those in Nebraska’s other 92 counties, must implement State-level changes. Bell said they have moved to new real estate collection software, adding the state of Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is also rolling out a new program featuring new licensing requirements for trailers and vehicles.• Goals for the first year?
Bell said she is trying to “keep as smooth a transition as possible.” She wants to maintain a high level of delinquent tax collection. “The biggest thing, honestly for us, is keeping up with all the changes in technology,” she said. Bell filled her former position by hiring Kim Eggers and the office will continue to employ three clerks as well.
• Approach to residents' concerns?
“(I’m) always willing to listen,” Bell said. “A lot of times it’s not my decision,” she specified, adding, a lot of times it is something that has to be done through the Legislature.
• Views on the budget, ideas for the upcoming fiscal year?
“Our goal is to stay as fiscally responsible as we can,” Bell said. She pointed to the office’s track record with its recent budgets while “at the same time (I want to) keep us moving forward.”
• How are you working with the Board of Commissioners on priorities of the Treasurer’s Office?
“We have a really good working relationship with the commissioners,” Bell said. Part of that is “keeping them abreast of things going on in the courthouse,” she said. Good communication “is key and I look for that to continue.”
• View on working closer with other Nebraska counties and the State?
“Actually one of the good parts of my position is being able to work with the other 92 county treasurers,” Bell commented. She described the united front the officials bring to the Legislature to address common goals. Bell hopes to be appointed to the legislative and DMV committees with the Nebraska Treasurers Association. The association meets twice a year, offering training sessions, with committees staying in touch through conference calls and other methods. The best thing about face-to-face meetings, Bell said, is having a “sounding board to bounce those ideas off of — that’s huge.”