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Lost amid the fallout of election day was a changing of the guard at the Orange County branch of the NAACP, which has been roundly criticized as a do-nothing organization (A quiet voice, Aug. 17).

Gerald Bell, a branch vice president for the past six years, upset incumbent president Thomas Alston 59 votes to 18.

"It's not a win for Bell," says Sylvia Young, an activist and NAACP member. "You either voted for one or the other or none. But there needed to be a change because the NAACP wasn't doing anything under Alston. ... More than a vote for Bell, this was a vote against Alston."

Bell, who will take office Jan. 1, has vowed to increase membership by targeting fraternities, sororities and lodges. He has also pledged to keep a lid on outlandish behavior during the branch's monthly meetings, which have been marred by heated verbal exchanges. Tensions were so intense at one of the branch's October meetings that Orlando police were summoned to keep the peace.

The Winter Springs real-estate agent says, "We want to be a player in the community. We want to be respected. We don't want to live on our name. We want to live on action and doing the things we should be doing. That's how you get membership."

Young worries that Bell might be too involved in city politics to effectively lead. She points out that Bell is a member of the Parramore Heritage Renovation Foundation, which has been criticized as Mayor Glenda Hood's puppet organization for the Parramore neighborhood.

"He's right in the belly of the city," Young says. Even so, she concedes that change was necessary: "When you have a new presidency, `members` come back."


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