The City of Rocky Mount is grieving the loss of former Mayor Frederick E. Turnage. City officials learned yesterday of the former mayor’s passing. Turnage was Rocky Mount’s longest-serving Mayor, having served for a total of 34 years. Mayor David W. Combs has directed that flags at all city facilities be lowered to half-staff in Turnage’s honor; flags will remain lowered until following Turnage’s funeral.
"The passing of Mayor Turnage is a great loss for all of us in Rocky Mount and indeed for the state of North Carolina," said Mayor David W. Combs. "In my own tenure as mayor, I have seen first hand how Turnage’s outstanding reputation has extended throughout the state and far beyond. Here at home, we all treasured his friendship and will forever remember him as a true southern gentleman who treated every person he met with dignity, which of course is what endeared him to us all. The Rocky Mount City Council and I extend our sincerest sympathies to Norma and the entire Turnage family during this difficult time."
"Mayor Turnage was Rocky Mount’s greatest cheerleader," said Charles W. Penny, City Manager. "He demonstrated his heart-felt passion for this community throughout his long and distinguished career of public service and in his personal life as well. Turnage’s legacy should inspire us all to realize that the sky is the limit for Rocky Mount."
TURNAGE’S TENURE AS MAYOR
Fred Turnage was elected to the Rocky Mount City Council in 1971 and one year later was elected Mayor Pro Tem. In 1973, he was elected Rocky Mount’s youngest Mayor at the age of 37. After nine terms, Mayor Turnage chose not to seek the office again and stepped down in 2007.
During his tenure, Mayor Turnage led the City with dignity, integrity and diplomacy. He was respected not only for leadership within the City of Rocky Mount, but also for his valuable contributions to municipal government on state and national levels. He served terms as President of both the North Carolina League of Municipalities and ElectriCities of North Carolina. He served a two year term on the Board of Directors of the National League of Cities where he was named to the Budget and Finance Committee. In 1979, he was named by President Carter to be one of nine North Carolina delegates to the White House Conference on Balanced Growth and Economic Development held in Washington, DC. In November, 1981, he was one of 10 city officials invited by President Reagan to meet with the President, Vice President and other administrative officials to discuss revenue sharing and federalism.
Notable among the challenges Turnage faced as Mayor was the devastation experienced by the City as a result of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. His sensitive, compassionate and intuitive leadership created a sense of comfort and security among the citizens and hastened the City’s recovery. He was a strong advocate for facilities that would improve the quality of life and delivery of services for the citizens and improve the working conditions and morale of the City employee family. Under his faithful and steadfast leadership and utilizing his expert skills as a negotiator, a litany of significant achievements was realized during his years of service, including the Tar River Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, South Rocky Mount Community Center, The Rocky Mount Judicial Center, Rocky Mount Sports Complex, the Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences, Braswell Memorial Library, and the Rocky Mount Senior Center. Turnage was also instrumental in the development of a new City Hall for Rocky Mount, which in 2010 was renamed in his honor as the Frederick E. Turnage Municipal Building. His long personal involvement with the Down East Viking Football Classic prompted event organizers to name the event’s championship trophy in Turnage’s honor.