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MEN OF NEWTON 2021: Frank B. Turner Sr.
Frank B. Turner Sr. - photo by Special to The Covington News

Frank B. Turner Sr. says he believes anyone who “likes the community in which you live” should contribute to it in some way.

For Turner, that has included being involved with civic groups and his church, Covington First United Methodist.

His involvement with the church has included teaching Sunday school for 47 years.

“It’s been educational for me. I’ve enjoyed it.” he said. “I guess when you teach something you learn a lot.”

Turner led the day-to-day operations of the Covington government as city manager for most of four decades before retiring in 2006.

His 36-year tenure included overseeing rapid expansion of the city’s electric, gas and water systems; accreditation of both the city police and fire departments; and establishment of the joint Covington-Newton County E911 Communications Center.

Turner also was a longtime civic leader and former president of the Covington Kiwanis Club.

Mayor Steve Horton worked in a number of roles, including police chief and assistant city manager, during Turner’s time leading the staff before succeeding Turner in the position.

He nominated Turner to be featured in Men of Newton, and wrote that Turner, “cared a great deal for his fellow man, and I have witnessed many personal acts of kindness and generosity administered by Frank to individuals in need.”

“He was and, I suspect, still is, however, a role model and life teacher every day to all who were and are watching,” Horton wrote.

Turner is a Covington native and Vietnam-era Navy veteran who already had a master’s degree in business administration when he returned to Covington after leaving the military in early 1970.

He recalled that he had planned to begin classes at Georgia State University to earn a doctorate degree in finance but got what he thought would be a temporary position.

“Some of the council members called me and said they were looking for a city manager and on March 1, 1970, I took that job,” Turner said.

“They said I could take it while they looked for somebody. They finally found somebody 36 years later,” he said with a laugh.

In his role as city manager, he worked with three mayors, including Bill Dobbs for 25 years, and Allene Burton and Sam Ramsey.

Turner was a founding member of the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia in the late 1980s after the Georgia General Assembly approved its creation to provide an economical way for cities to offer natural gas service.

Other projects he helped bring about included creation of the joint city-county 911 Communications Center, moving the city’s recreation program under a board’s management, and the Newton County Water and Sewer Authority’s land application system which uses treated wastewater as fertilizer.

Horton said Turner “definitely practices the ‘Golden Rule,’ and all who know Frank will agree that other than his serious side, he is also filled with an abundance of wit and humor.”

He said Turner once told a group of “high-level executives” that he had wanted to be “a lover, a fighter and a ballroom dancer, but when that didn’t work, he became Covington’s city manager.”

“At the time I was somewhat startled that Frank had made the statement, but after having worked with him for a great many years, it is my observation that being city manager required Frank to wear those three hats and many more, as well,” Horton said.

“His talents for working with people and making them all feel encouraged and appreciated are unsurpassed by anyone I have ever known before or since,” he said.

“He carried Covington city government from the basic and mundane to modern and masterful. He was a great mentor to me and many others,” Horton said.

Turner said he generally enjoyed the job because it “had so many facets” — from  power outages to personnel issues.

He said he tried to keep things light-hearted when he could do so as he worked to direct the city staff through such events as power outages.

“You’ve got to be ‘chipper’ with anything if you can,” he said. “And I had tremendous help through the years. Some really good folks.”