Aaron Bell steps aside as Nassau Commission Chair as Hupp Huppmann launches campaign
Aaron Bell is stepping aside.

aaron bell
Huppmann said a central factor to running is the need to serve the community that supported him before.

People who showed up and tuned in this week seeking further explanation from Nassau County Commissioner Aaron Bell on his DUI arrest didn’t get much, but the Commission underwent some changes, at least temporarily.

“As I’m sure you’re all aware, last week I was accused of operating my personal vehicle while under the influence, and I went through the arrest and booking process for those accusations,” Bell said at the outset of the week’s Board of County Commissioners meeting.

“I will be responding to those claims completely through the legal process. I feel that any discussion of this matter during the current meeting or other subsequent meetings, would only serve to distract from the important work of this Board. For this reason, effective immediately, I am abstaining from any further action as Chairman of both the Board of County Commissioners and the (Amelia Island) Tourist Development Council for the remainder of my term as Chairman.”

“I would recommend that (Commissioner Jeff) Gray assume the role of Chairman, but I leave that decision to you fine gentlemen,” Bell said.

He deferred to County Attorney Denise May on the policy and the procedure to do so, and reaffirmed his commitment to representing the people of District 2, and the larger county, on the Commission.

Gray was already the Vice Chairman and at times filled in for Bell in meetings Bell couldn’t attend. Commissioners chose Gray to move into the Chairman’s role for the duration of this term, with Commissioner John Martin joining the Tourist Development Council.

Hupp Huppmann, a military veteran and locally well-known entertainer, is challenging Bell for the seat in an open Republican Primary. Huppmann kicked off his campaign Friday with an event at Sliders Seaside Grille in Fernandina Beach.

Huppmann acknowledged the attendance of some notable folks, including Martin, and his wife, Donna. Donna Martin is the Nassau County School Board Chairwoman.

He said a central factor to running is the need to serve, reflecting on the support the community gave to the Foar From Home veteran suicide prevention effort he and others organized.

“I don’t believe for one second that combative and provocative slogans are going to solve any problems for the citizens of Nassau County,” Huppmann said.

“I trust that you all feel the same way. In fact, I’m going to take it one step further, and I’m going to repeat, good leaders know those kind of tactics serve to make things worse. Solutions are found when both sides of an issue come together, work together, and reach a mutually beneficial solution — it’s basically called the win-win. That’s how you get things done. That’s what we’re going to do.”

While Huppmann didn’t elaborate on the “provocative slogans” remark, Bell sided with Amelia Island residents over Riverstone Properties in a 3-2 Commission vote that means the county goes head-to-head with Riverstone in a Bert Harris Act challenge. 

The developer wants to build 11 towers on the south end of the island with 85-foot maximum heights, with the only notable concession to the public being a beach access area that’s near two other public beach access areas.

Bell closes out his campaign bio with the statement he “believes that those that would do harm to Nassau County can pound sand and we will see them in court.”

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe


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