Gainesville attorney Ashley Bell was sworn in Monday as a special assistant to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He will be working as part of the department’s bureau of public affairs to make sure President Donald Trump’s vision for America’s place in the world is communicated clearly.
Bell previously served on the transition team for Trump to help recruit State Department staff. He said he was one of the few from that “landing” team who will keep working at the department, and he will start off with up to 120 days as an emergency appointment with the opportunity to be reappointed by the president at the end of that time.
“I took it as a huge honor,” Bell said in a phone interview Monday night.
And upon visiting the White House for the first time last week, Bell made sure Trump knew Bell’s hometown always believed in his candidacy.
“Now we have to work with people who didn’t support us to understand that we can do a better job as a country,” Bell said.
He pointed to what he called a more dangerous and unstable world, adding, “We need someone who can calm the waters through strength.”
For those who are fearful of a Trump presidency, Bell said things being done differently doesn’t mean the country is worse off. After a system Bell said “failed America” and “failed our friends,” he said Trump and Tillerson bring great experience, just not government experience.
“Things won’t happen as they have in the past,” Bell said. “But I promise you the results will be better.”
Bell particularly looks forward to working more with Tillerson.
“He understands the world as it is, not as people hope it should be,” Bell said.
When Bell worked for the Republican National Committee as a senior strategist and national director of African-American political engagement during the general election, he would come on weekends to Gainesville and gain encouragement from people who told him to keep going and that people here believed change was needed in Washington.
Bell plans to make one last weekend trip to Gainesville before an extended time in Washington, saying he hopes to thank friends and family for their support about 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Luna’s, located at 200 Main St. in downtown Gainesville.
Earlier in his political career, Bell was a Democrat and served as a delegate to both the 2000 and 2004 Democratic National Conventions. He switched to the GOP in 2010 while serving as a Hall County commissioner.