Newest commissioner, GOP’s Craig Turner, flew in Navy F-14 fighter planes

This upcoming release of Maverick, the sequel to 1986’s Top Gun, is a testament to the enduring appeal of the titular character – an ace Navy aviator portrayed by Tom Cruise.

But for all of Maverick’s daredevil antics and eminently quotable lines, it’s another character from Top Gun who speaks most directly to Craig Turner, a local attorney who was recently tapped for a vacancy on Alamance County’s board of commissioners.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Turner pulled an eight-year stint in the Navy before he entered law school that has left him with a certain affinity for “Goose,” the radar intercept offer who is Maverick’s trusted partner in mischief. In fact, Turner once occupied the very same spot in an F-14 fighter jet that Goose claimed as his perch in Top Gun.

“I did two tours in the VFA-31 Tomcatters,” Turner recalled this week in an interview with The Alamance News. “I was an F-14 Radar Intercept Officer – so I basically was ‘Goose.’”

Although a seat on the county’s governing board may seem rather anti-climactic after a posting in an F-14 Tomcat, Turner seems to be quite comfortable in his new role as a county commissioner. The 47-year-old father of three is not only well acquainted with Alamance County; he also has a familiarity with local politics that made him a shoo-in to succeed former county commissioner Amy Scott Galey, who left the board earlier this month to serve in North Carolina’s state senate.

Born and raised in Alamance County, Turner graduated from Williams High School in 1991, and he returned to the area after his stint in the Navy in order to study law at Elon University. A long-time member of St. Mark’s Church, the incoming county commissioner also boasts an unassailably local pedigree as the son of two Cummings High School alums. His father, Billy Turner, even did a turn as his high school’s cavalier mascot, while his mother, Lorene Neese, is perhaps best known as the former owner of the now defunct shop Addie Ray & Ives.

After he obtained his law degree, Turner clerked for a couple of judges in North Carolina’s Business Court before he went into private practice. In 2017, he joined the staff of Alamance County’s former D.A. Pat Nadolski as an assistant district attorney. Turner left the D.A.’s office in 2018, and he currently works at the Fox Rothschild law firm in Greensboro, where he specializes in civil litigation and construction law. He also represents police officers in civil lawsuits that concern things like unlawful searches and seizures.

Turner believes that his professional experience makes him particularly well suited to serve on the county’s governing board.

“The most important function government plays at any level is providing for the security of its citizens,” he insists. “I have insight of what law enforcement does day to day, and I understand what happens when they’re accused of civil claims.”

This argument also seemed to get plenty of traction with the local GOP’s executive committee, which met online on Thursday evening select someone to replace Galey on the board of commissioners.

As the local party’s first vice chairman, Turner was one of 44 people who were entitled to vote on Galey’s successor. He was also one of nine contenders who, at one point, were vying for the committee’s appointment. By the time that the executive committee conducted its vote, Turner had only three rivals left for the vacant commissioner’s seat. These other would-be commissioners were Robert Turner, the co-owner of ACE Speedway in Altamahaw; Michael Trollinger, a member of Green Level’s town council; and Paul Williams, a retired EMT for Alamance County.

Craig Turner ultimately received 22 votes from the 39 committee members who took part in Thursday’s selection. This first round result put him well ahead of Robert Turner, who wound up in second place with 11 votes, and it swamped the 5 and 1 votes that Trollinger and Williams had picked up respectively. In the end, there was no need for a runoff or even courtesy recount to solidify Craig Turner’s win.

Although he won’t formally claim this position until the board of commissioners convenes its next regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, the incoming board member has already started to give some serious thought to the task that now lies ahead.

At 47, Turner will be the youngest person on the five-member board of commissioners, and he acknowledges that his relatively young age will indirectly shape his perspective when he takes office.

“I’m at the age where I have school age kids, and I think that’s different from the other board members,” he said. “It gives you a view of what’s happening from their perspective.”

With children who are now in the 3rd, 7th, and 9th grades, Turner also has a more-than-casual interest in the local school system’s plans to resume in-person classes, which have given way to “remote learning” since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic last spring. Turner added that the county’s response to the pandemic will inevitably preoccupy him and his fellow commissioners after he takes his seat on the dais next week.

“The number one mission of Alamance County government right now is to make sure we get everyone efficiently vaccinated based on the vaccine that we get,” he elaborated. “The other thing I want to focus on is that we develop economically as a county and that we promote jobs. That’s going to be helpful for the tax base and for keeping people employed.”

Turner concedes that he’s unlikely to have much free time once he assumes his new post on the board of commissioners. But when the does get a moment or two to himself, it isn’t the “need for speed” in a fighter jet that consumes the one-time radar intercept officer.

“I like to golf. I’m not great at it, but I like it,” he said. “And I really, really miss live music.”