COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton County Board of Education unanimously approved the resolution to honor one of its own during a special called meeting Monday morning, Dec. 2.
The late Almond Turner, a sixth-term board member who died Nov. 23, was first elected to the Board of Education in 1996 and continued to serve up until his unexpected death. He also served in law enforcement for the city of Covington for 45 years, making him the city's longest tenured employee. He began his career as a police officer for the city in 1972 and retired as assistant police chief in 2016, after holding the position for 19 years.
The resolution commended Turner for his "exemplary service" to his district and the school system. Also, the resolution assured the Turner family that the late Turner's "dedication and committment to the students and employees of the Newton County School System will never be forgotten."
Tears were shed and stories were shared among the board members, before a vote took place, as they reminisced about Turner and the impact he left behind on the school system, the community and each individual person he knew.
Board member Trey Bailey, also known as Turner's partner in crime by fellow board members, shared stories of the fun times he had with the late Turner. He remembered the laughter and jokes the two shared and how the punchline of Bailey's jokes involved becoming more like Almond Turner, who was "doing retirement well."
"I answered by saying when I grew up, I want to be Almond Turner," he said. "Now the punchline has turned into a life goal. The three words I would use to describe Almond Turner — he was kind, he was fun and he was wise. They say people don't know care how much you know until they know how much you care, and Almond cared.
"He cared deeply for his wife and his family. He cared deeply for his community. His caring was demonstrated by the way he treated everyone with kindness, respect and dignity. From the superintendent to the bus driver from the custodian to the principal, he treated everyone equality with the respect they deserved."
Bailey praised Turner for using his experiences and wisdom to make Newton County a better place for all.
"Almond was wise enough to know he had influence, a platform and life experience to share with others. He did not abuse those gifts; instead, he used his influence, platform and life experiences to bless many people in this community," he said. "I'm a recipient of those blessings and his wisdom. Almond was the calm in the storm. He was the level-head in the heat of discussion. He was also the voice of reason."
Board member Eddie Johnson kept his sentiments short and sweet, saying even though him and Turner had disagreements over the last decade, he found momentum through his fellow board member.
"He had energy," he said. "I got energy from him, and we both thrived on each other's commitment for excellence."
Board member Abigail Coggins challenged everyone in the room to become more like Almond Turner as the community moves forward from this tragedy.
"He made a difference in everybody's lives he touched, so I want to challenge us all to make a difference in everything we do," she said. "Any decision is 'what would Almond do?'"
Chairwoman Shakila Henderson-Baker recalled her strong relationship with the late Turner, saying her mother lived seven houses down from him and he watched her grow up as a little girl.
"He took me under his wing without even asking. He's always had my back," she said. "I'm forever grateful for everything he's taught me. I'm forever grateful for our weekly conversations about nothing. I'm forever grateful for how he always watched over me."
She added, "I remember the words Mr. Turner told me. My dad died two days before my first election, and Mr. Turner came down to my house where my father passed away — my mother's house. He told me, 'No need to worry. I got you. I got you.' He's had me since then. Although he won't be here physically, I know he's got me. He has all of us. He has left a piece of him in all of us.
"Like I said the other night, he is legendary, and you do not come across that often. He is legendary. I am so grateful to his family for sharing him with us. I'm grateful for his wisdom. I will miss his many jokes. I will miss my back. I will miss my partner, but he has me. I'm thankful for the time that he was here to have me."
Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey called the late Turner an "amazing man."
"If you met Mr. Turner and left the same way you started with him, then the problem was probably yours because it certainly was not his. He is giant among all of us. He was my friend. He was the backbone of our board of education, and he will not be forgotten," she said. "His kindness, his gentle spirit and all that he represents for our school system and for our community are very important pieces for us to remember as we carry out the day to day work of the school system."
"I hope that we are all a little bit kinder and a little bit nicer having known Mr. Turner and having had his influence on all of us over the last 23 years — of course, his whole lifetime in our community. As you heard our board members say, to know Mr. Turner is to love Mr. Turner. You didn't have to spend a great deal of time with him to fall in love with him as a person."