By Michael Reisig
James Earl Turner is a fourth generation native of Mena and Polk County. His parents and grandparents were cattle people and farmers and he has grown up with a love of the land and the people of this area. From that, Turner has continuously dedicated a good deal of his time and efforts to making Polk County a better place to live. He is a 1972 graduate of Mena High School, and he and his wife Ewanta, have been married for 29 years.
James Earl believes in being a part of the community by serving. He is a graduate of Leadership Polk County, and is a graduate of class 15 of LeadAR, a statewide leadership program sponsored by the University of Arkansas Extension Service. Turner currently serves on the Mena Fire Department as an Engineer and instructor, and assists the Ink Volunteer Fire Department as an Engineer and Assistant Training Officer. He has been an active member of the Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas since its beginning. He is active in the Western Arkansas Fire and Rescue Association, and serves on the board of the Polk County Long Term Recovery Committee. He was honored to be chosen as “Volunteer of the Year” in 2011 by the Mena Rotary Club, and became a member of the Rotary Club last year serving this year as President Nominee. He was also recently elected to the Polk County Fair and Rodeo Association Board. In addition he is a member of our Masonic Lodge, and performs graveside rites for the organization.
But Turner is not all work and no play. He loves the theater with a passion and in the early 1980’s he served on the board of The Ouachita Little Theatre and later became vice president of the organization. He acted in seven shows and enjoyed building sets for many of the productions.
Turner is president of Glennaire Construction, Inc., a licensed residential construction company that was started by his father in 1959 and was revived in 2009 with his son Eric.
“I have over 45 years of experience in construction and construction related fields,” Turner explained. “Starting at a very early age I began working with my father in residential construction and subdivision development. Our family was in the retail building material/residential construction business as well, until my father retired. After closing our retail business, I completed building out our last subdivision and then began a second career in commercial construction. I recently spent two years as the Assistant Construction Superintendent for the construction of our new high school in Mena.”
Turner added that he has been involved in the fire service, off and on, for about 34 years.
“I currently serve on the Mena Fire Department as an engineer and instructor,” he said. “My oldest son is also on the Mena Department as a firefighter and recently passed the exam for Instructor I. My wife and I also serve on the Ink Fire Department. I also worked in law enforcement in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s as a reserve deputy, and two summers as a paid deputy patrolling USFS recreation areas.
Turner explained that he left Mena in 1987 to move to Central Arkansas, to Texarkana, Arkansas in 1996, and Whitehouse, Texas, in 2000, but he came back to Mena in 2004.
“I just missed Mena and wanted to come home,” he recalled. “I missed being part of the community. “My wife, oldest son, and I, all serve the Polk County Search and Rescue team. Eric, my son, and I spent three days with the team at the Albert Pike Recreation area in June of 2010 on a search and recovery mission after the devastating flood that took the lives of 20 people.”
Turner previously served on the Mena City Council for four years, from 2007-2010 and with the great things that are in Mena’s future wants to be a part of the leadership team again.
“It takes teamwork and unity, working towards common goals, for a community to prosper and move in a positive direction,” he said. “I want to be a part of that team. I think Mena is one of the greatest places anyone can choose to live. But we need to work harder to bring better-paying jobs in for younger people, so they can stay here and raise their families. For me, I can’t imagine leaving Mena ever again. This is where my roots are.”