Professor working for the greater good on town council
Toni Bell serves Bloomsburg residents as an elected official.
BLOOMSBURG -- When Bloomsburg University professor Toni Bell moved to Bloomsburg from Louisville, Kentucky, nearly 20 years ago, she never imagined she’d be serving on the Bloomsburg Town Council.
Growing up in Columbia Missouri, Bell, a member of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, heard politics being discussed at home, which had a lasting impact on her.
“As a fourth-grader, I participated in the (Jimmy) Carter/ (Ronald) Reagan election of 1980. Fast forward a few decades, and I took part in the Women’s March in Washington D.C. in 2017,” said Bell. “The next day, I watched the speeches when Van Jones and Michael Moore encouraged everyone to run for a local office. I never imagined that I would run for public office. I called a friend in my local political party to ask for advice, and he told me I would make a good member of the Bloomsburg Town Council. My political party helped me through the steps of running for office.”
Holding a public service position requires the need and want to make a change. Dr. Bell shares the priorities she stands by.
“The only campaign promise I made was to pass the Anti-discrimination ordinance. I am very proud that we achieved this in October 2020. Walkability is another top priority for me, along with community revitalization. It is important to make Bloomsburg a place where people want to be.”
Being a woman in politics has its challenges. For Dr. Bell, this is something she has experienced firsthand.
“I have experienced sexism in the past. Although there are microaggressions by a few in the community, it has been better than I expected,” said Bell. “We have a good team in town. It was more of an issue with some that I was not born and raised in Bloomsburg.”
After her term at the town council is over, Dr. Bell doesn’t have any immediate plans to seek a higher office but will leave the door open for something in the future.
“At one time, I thought I would go for a higher-level political office; however, I am a tenured full professor at BU during an integration process, and my colleagues and students need me,” Bell said. “I feel stretched thin. Perhaps after things settle a bit or I retire. I may run for judge of elections or office within my political party after my term on council is done.
Dr. Bell shares her advice for other women looking to run for elected office.
“Attend a workshop. Find good mentors. I had several who really helped me. I am happy to help others get started.”