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Former Lake Cumberland Development chief honored

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Pat Bell, former Lake Cumberland Area Development District chief, was honored recently at the annual conference of the Development Districts of Appalachia Association as he received the 2011 Donald R. Myers Humanitarian Award in recognition of his history and lifetime achievement.

The DDAA gives one such award each year. The award winner is selected from one of the 420 Appalachian counties, which make up 73 development districts in the 13 state Appalachian region.

Bell was nominated for the honor by staff at Lake Cumberland Area Development District in Russell Springs.

The nomination outlined the award winner's many achievements and contributions to the Appalachian region that he has always called home.

"Patrick R. Bell was born and raised in McCreary County, Kentucky, in the middle of the most distressed portion of Appalachia," the nomination form read. "From youth, Pat knew he wanted to use his talents and gifts as a communicator to make a difference. After completing his education, he began a career in the local school system, becoming the McCreary County school superintendent in the 1960s.

"After enabling legislation was passed creating area development districts, Pat was tapped to organize and create Lake Cumberland Area Development District as the first executive director. After a dozen years at this task that fledgling organization was ready to take wings and Pat was again tapped to organize Lake Cumberland District Health Department in a like fashion. Pat worked with the health department system until his retirement.

"A few years later, Pat was called out of retirement to take an appointment as mayor of the City of Columbia, finishing the unexpired term of Curtis Hardwick. He then ran for the office and completed a second term at the end of 2010, retiring yet again."

Staff at Lake Cumberland ADD who wrote the nomination ended it by suggesting that, knowing Pat as they know him, this retirement may not last long and that additional public service may well be in his future.

According to Donna Diaz, current executive director of the organization, Pat was an "awesome director, innovative and creative, yet very practical" and "a visionary in combat boots who left big shoes to fill."

In accepting the award Bell said, "My wife read what they had written about me, and cried. She said, 'I wish I had a husband like that.'"

At the awards luncheon in Alexandria, Va., Bell received a plaque detailing his accomplishments. He will be honored again at the May meeting of the Lake Cumberland ADD board of directors as the first Kentuckian to receive this award.