February 3, 2013

Loyce Turner ready for life after public service

February 3, 2013 Dean Poling The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Nearly 40 years of public service would be enough of a mark for most men, but for Loyce Turner, it is only one facet of a versatile life.

Redistricting changes recently brought an end to Turner’s tenure on the state’s Board of Natural Resources, a position he’s held for the past 13 years. Prior to being appointed to the Natural Resources board, Turner spent nearly 25 years representing South Georgia as a state senator.

Shortly after his election as state senator in 1974, Turner and area state representatives formed the South Georgia legislative delegation; despite changes in area legislators, the delegation continues to this day.

Last month, the Board of Natural Resources paid tribute to Turner for his service to the state. In a resolution, the board expressed “sincere appreciation to Loyce W. Turner for his faithful service to the State of Georgia and to the Department of Natural Resources as a member of the board for over 13 years, and wishes him health, happiness and much success in all future endeavors.”

The proclamation pays tribute to his accomplishments on the DNR board, serving as chairman of board committees and as the board’s chairman in 2005, when he oversaw the board’s “purchase of key conservation lands in the River Creek, Altamaha River/Clayhole Swamps,

Dawson Forest and Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Areas and Dukes Pond Management Area.”

It shares enough worthy accomplishments for a man’s life, but the proclamation does not touch upon his legislative work.

Nor does it mention Turner’s military service in the Korean War, serving in the Army Veterinary Corps, entering as a lieutenant in 1951 and being discharged as a captain in 1953.

The proclamation does not share Turner’s early career as a veterinarian, visiting area farms and helping with livestock from before the sun rose till past sunset most days. In addition to being a veterinarian, Turner was instrumental in founding First State Bank & Trust in Valdosta. He became a chamber president as well as a leader in many other civic organizations.

He and wife Annette raised three children, Sally Querin, L. Warren Turner, and Susan A. Turner, and had five grandchildren. Though his work and political life kept him busy, Annette joined Loyce on numerous trips to Atlanta. She won over many legislators with her charm and many people with her compassion. She loved the arts and her family. When she became ill, Loyce Turner refused to run for another state Senate term in 1998.

Following Annette’s passing in 2000, Turner saw a way to honor his late wife while promoting the arts she loved. First State Bank & Trust was moving from its downtown location, where it had hosted the annual Spring Into Arts exhibit for many years, to Inner Perimeter Road. Turner used his influence with the bank coupled with a Turner family donation of a half-million dollars to turn the one-time downtown bank into the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts, which opened in 2003.

Turner met a new love, Ingrid, whom he married in 2005.

As a public servant, Turner notes he served under six governors from George D. Busbee through Nathan Deal.

In the letter to Gov. Deal accepting the end of his tenure on the DNR board, Turner wrote he “will continue to do for the citizens of Georgia.”

Even four decades of public service may not be enough for Loyce Turner. At 85, Turner has no plans for a new public role, but he would offer advice to current state and national legislators.

“Legislation is the art of compromise, and if you can’t do that, you can’t get anything done,” Turner says.

Accomplishment may be the art of balancing dedication and sacrifice.

Born Dec. 2, 1927, to father Warren Turner and mother Willie Young Turner in Turner County, young Loyce knew his career goal at an early age … at least for one career with experiences to prepare him for another.

“I decided to be a veterinarian at 4 years old,” Loyce Turner says, a smile broadening as he continues. “I learned horse and mule trading with my daddy, which would also be good practice for the State Senate.”

He earned a veterinary degree in 1948 from Auburn University; Turner would also graduate from the University of Georgia’s Banking School.

Through the military and private practice, Turner loved working as veterinarian, working with both the animals and area farmers. He made sacrifices to provide for his family.

“I would often be up and gone before the kids got up in the morning,” he says, “and I got home when the kids were already in bed.”

Life became busier. He became involved with the development of First State Bank and Trust, serving as president and board director and director of Synovus Financial Corp. He became a devoted member and often led groups such as the chamber, Rotary Club, Kiwanis and the Farm Bureau. Then everything changed.

“In 1974, Lowndes County had not held the Senate seat in quite a while and the people wanted the seat back in Valdosta,” according to a Turner biography. “Loyce Turner, at that time, was president of the Chamber of Commerce, and having dealt with farmers, the people felt he was the perfect candidate to get the seat back into Lowndes County.”

As a Democratic state senator when Democrats were the majority in the Georgia statehouse, Turner served as the Senate Majority Whip, chaired the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee, and was a member of the Appropriations and Higher Education committees.

He served on several other committees, while building the South Georgia legislative delegation with state Reps. James Beck, Robert Patten and Henry Reaves. While some regions experienced animosity between its senator and representatives, Turner and the South Georgia representatives formed a partnership between the Senate and House. They met weekly for lunch to discuss issues that needed to be addressed back home. From these meetings, they worked on creating the James M. Beck Overpass and won university status for Valdosta State.

He occasionally faced opposition for his State Senate seat, but he didn’t leave the seat until he decided to retire. The appointment to the Natural Resources board was a natural fit for Turner, who loved the outdoors, fishing, and hunting. The Department of Natural Resources oversees Georgia’s parks, historic sites, coastal areas, hunting and fishing regulations, conservation, etc.

As the Natural Resources seat changed under redistricting, Turner has spent the past year battling skin cancer on the left, back side of his head just below the crown. After a series of surgeries, he’s cancer free. Healthy and with no public obligations for the first time in decades, he looks forward to spending more time with wife Ingrid in the Valdosta area and in the mountains, and with his grandchildren.

As for any other plans for the future, Loyce Turner notes that his father lived to be an active 92 years old, having just mowed the grass the previous day.

In his letter informing Turner he would not be re-appointed to the Board of Natural Resources, Gov. Deal wrote, “I certainly hope I have the opportunity to work with you in the future.” If the governor asks, Loyce Turner most certainly would answer.

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