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Dirt roads safe, thanks to Mr. Robert

Robert Lee Turner, affectionately known as Mr. Robert by residents, spends much of his day on a road grader, scraping dirt roads throughout Oglethorpe County. Turner is technically part time, but often works full days. (Abby Peacock/The Oglethorpe Echo)

The following story is reprinted with permission from The Oglethorpe Echo

By Abby Peacock

With a brown baseball cap pulled low, paired with a worn gray flannel and stained jeans, Robert Lee Turner steps out from around the corner of a yellow John Deere grader.

The miles put on this equipment under his watchful eye represent not only dedication but also unwavering determination to ensure the safety and maintenance of dirt roads in Oglethorpe County. 

At 76 years old, Turner, affectionately known as Mr. Robert by residents, has made two unsuccessful attempts at retirement.

For now, Turner is continuing to return to his familiar workdays to scrape dirt roads.  

“Every day I’m here, I just love it,” Turner said. “I’ve had a couple other jobs, but I love this more right here.” 

Turner and his wife, Ada, have lived in Oglethorpe County their entire lives, currently living in Lexington on Wesley Chapel Road. After 60 years of marriage, Turner said he can’t imagine having spent that time anywhere else. 

It all started as one of 14 siblings who was raised to value hard work.  

“Our daddy loved to have us around,”  Turner said. “We were about 7 or 8 years old, and we were out there working with him.”

Turner’s been working ever since. He is one of two part-time staff for the Oglethorpe County Public Works Department and is responsible for regularly maintaining the dirt roads. 

“He takes pride in keeping our roads in good shape, and I always give him all the credit,” said Adam Nation, director of public works. 

Although Turner primarily works in road maintenance, he is known to jump in and help in other projects when needed. 

Nation chuckled as he recalled approaching a work site on Caldwell Road where Turner was manning a bulldozer. He said in his time working in the county he had always seen Turner run a grader, but that day, he had other plans. 

Turner laughed and said he “could run anything.” 

Due to his technical retirement, Turner can set his own work hours. However, Nation said you’ll see him come in at 7:30 a.m. and leave at the end of a workday, when the rest of the staff leaves.  

“I want to come in the morning when y’all come in, and leave when y’all leave,” Turner said. “I don’t want to come and only work a couple hours. I want to work the whole day.”

Those long workdays are often met with appreciation from residents. Turner said people will stop to give him a bottle of water and check if he needs anything, which is a part of why he loves the community so much. 

“If you stop and speak to him, he is just as friendly as can be,” said Amy Taylor, who lives in Lexington. “He would take his own shirt off his back for anyone in need.”

Taylor said she’s known Mr. Robert her whole life and has witnessed him work hard for the county by being the only person to scrape the dirt roads. 

“I just love Oglethorpe County,” Turner said. “It’s where I was born, and I’m not planning on going anywhere else. I want to die here.”

 

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He’s a dying breed. Today’s workforce is not as dedicated. Oglethorpe County is very lucky to have him. 👍

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