Turner announces retirement as DPW?director

Aaron Looney

Parish President Tommy Martinez announced to the Ascension Parish Council Thursday that Bob Turner had offered his retirement Wednesday as the parish’s public works director.

Turner, a civil engineer, came to Ascension Parish from Little Rock, Ark., two years ago, where he had served as assistant city manager in the city's governmental office complex consisting of 13 departments and more than 2,000 employees.

After retirement, Turner decided he wanted to resume his career and reentered the work force in 2005, accepting employment as a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) until his present employment with the parish five month ago.

Turner has more than 40 years of engineering experience in the design and construction of highways and in traffic control devices to his office, plus administrative experience as a director of public works in two large municipalities – Springfield, Mo. and Little Rock, Ark.

Turner received a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Missouri at Rolla, Missouri and is a registered professional engineer in Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana.

He was recently inducted into the Academy of Civil Engineers at the University of Missouri-Rolla. The Academy was formed by the University in the early 1970's to recognize engineering graduates distinguishing themselves in the practice of Civil Engineering. The Academy has conferred this honor on only 167 graduates of the over 10,000 eligible for the award since it was formed. Turner was the second person in a class of  300; only one other classmate has received this recognition.

After receiving a standing ovation Thursday night from the council, administrators and members of the audience, Turner said that he felt the time was right to retire.

“I’m deeply honored to be your public works director,” Turner told the council. “Ascension Parish citizens have the right to be proud of their community, their council, president and administration.”

Turner praised the work of his department during the recent hurricanes, adding that the parish passed a tremendous test.

“From the point of taking generators who desperately needed them to passing out bag of ice when people haven’t had electricity for days, opening up streets and driveways clogged with debris, I’ve never seen a group of employees and administrators pull together more than I’ve seen in the past two weeks,” Turner said.

During recovery efforts from Hurricane Gustav, Turner said, he spent much of his time on the parish’s west bank aiding in relief activities and lauded the work of Councilmen Kent Schexnaydre and Oliver Joseph, who represent the area.

Turner said that he had his reasons for retiring, but assured the council that he’s “not running from anything.”

“It’s very hard for me to leave because of how good it is here,” Turner said. “Every now and then, it clicks in your mind that it’s time to leave. That’s what’s happened in this case. We’ve been through so much and we have a long road ahead. It’s time for someone else to step in and fill that gap. I’m not the person to do that for the next several years. I’m sure you’ll find someone very qualified to do that.”

Martinez said that the parish will miss Turner helming public works.

“He brought professonalism to the public works department over the past two years,” Martinez said of Turner. “I’m sad to say that he’s leaving. If I could talk him into staying, I’d get on my knees and beg him. He’s a great citizen of the parish.”

Turner quipped that one thing he will have to re-learn in his retirement is how to fish, something he said his grandchildren will have to help him do.

“I was looking for my fishing rod the other day and couldn’t find it,” Turner said. “I think somewhere in the move several years ago, my wife threw t away.”

Martinez did not discuss a timetable to find Turner’s successor.