Former city administrator, Wayne County COO Bella Marshall dies (MI)

Detroit— Bella Marshall, 62, a former appointee in the administration of the late Mayor Coleman Young and estranged wife of casino owner Don Barden, has died.

Marshall’s body was discovered around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning in her Detroit home. The cause of death has not been determined. An autopsy is planned for Wednesday.

Relatives tried unsuccessfully for two days to reach Marshall.

Most recently, Marshall worked as a chief operating officer for Wayne County, serving under County Executive Robert Ficano. He called her a dedicated businesswoman and public servant.

“Today I lost a friend and former colleague.” Ficano said in a statement Tuesday. “She was hard-working and a passionate voice for the people.Whileshe was fortunate herself, she never forgot her roots. She will be missed by the many lives she touched.”

Detroit City Council member JoAnn Watson called for a moment of silence in Marshall’s memory during Tuesday’s meeting. Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins asked her colleagues to pray for Marshall’s college-aged daughter, Alana Barden.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Marshall was Detroit’s finance director under Young beginning in the late 1970s. She was heralded as one of the first African-American women to be appointed as a finance director for a major U.S. city. In addition to an undergraduate degree from Wayne State University, she held a law degree from the University of Michigan. She took a job with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority shortly after graduating from Michigan.

A few years later, Marshall was tapped by Young to head Detroit’s budget office.

Colleagues of Marshall, including Charlie Williams, another Young appointee, said Marshall was known for her ability to get a tough municipal bond project passed and financing secured for Joe Louis Arena and later for the controversial Detroit Incinerator, which required about $300 million in bonds.

“Everybody will tell you that she was very, very energetic,” Williams said Tuesday. “She was always thinking outside the box.”

During her tenure as head of the city’s finance department, Marshall met future husband Don Barden, the CEO of Continental Cable, which later became Barden Cable. The couple wed in 1988 in a lavish ceremony and became known as the city’s power couple.

“Don and Bella’s first date was at my wedding in 1984,” said friend John Arnold, a former radio talk show host in Detroit. “They were two completely different people. She was more direct, and Don was more down to earth, but I think they complemented each other.”

After the election of Dennis Archer in 1993, Marshall went to work for her husband at his residential development company, Waycor.

Before Barden’s death, in May 2011, the couple, estranged by then, feuded legally over business affairs and money. Marshall also sought to have him declared incompetent to manage his affairs because of his declining health, but she later withdrew her request.

The court battle continued after Barden’s death, even over funeral arrangements and his estate.

Barden, who died at 67, wasn’t buried until six months later because of the legal dispute between his heirs and wife. His sister, Jacqueline Barden Barker, sued Marshall to block her from moving her brother’s body to another funeral home.

Barden filed for divorce five months before he died but that case was dropped after his death.

Barden was the owner, chairman and chief executive officer of Barden Companies Inc., the Majestic Star and Fitzgerald’s casinos and hotels, and Waycor Development Co.

Arnold said Marshall considered a run for mayor of Detroit, but he believes the contentious battles with Barden and then his family following his death from lung cancer diminished her dreams of possibly becoming Detroit’s first female mayor.


Former city administrator, Wayne County COO Bella Marshall dies
Oralandar Brand Williams/Darren A. Nichols
May 1, 2012
The Detroit News

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