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Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell to step down, return to private sector

Herbert said he would name a replacement within weeks, touching off a wave of speculation.

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"I’m sure the governor’s office will miss Greg. He’s a great, ethical person. He has a great demeanor, and it’s hard to find people like that who are politically oriented to fill those positions," Niederhauser said. "He has always been a pillar of good government as far as that is concerned."

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said Bell often served as the governor’s liaison with the Legislature.

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"It was surprising" to see him go, she said. "He’s a great guy. Obviously, I worked with him when he was in the Senate, and I always enjoyed working with him."

Niederhauser said it’s unlikely he would consider serving as lieutenant governor. Lockhart, who has been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2016, said she would not be interested. "I’m very happy right now being the speaker," she said.

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis, who also serves in the Senate, thanked Bell for his service.

Bell said that he had one particular investment — which he didn’t name — that had been hard hit by the economic collapse and has been slow to recover, demanding considerable time and resources to maintain.

He said that had left him in a position in terms of his retirement that he felt was untenable.

"I knew it would be a sacrifice financially," Bell said. "My wife and I agreed it was something we wanted to do, assuming along the way the market would improve and we could deal with these things."

Bell said he likely won’t go back to practicing law and instead would look for a position with a strong policy role, adding that education is an area of particular interest to him.

"The [economic] speed bump we’re going to hit is trained personnel. It’s engineers, it’s technology — and computer-oriented, tech-savvy people," Bell said. "I think job one … for everyone in the state of Utah is to improve our public-education system."

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Twitter: @RobertGehrke

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