Francis, Turner commended

Published 11:26 am Saturday, April 9, 2011

Two events of the past week cause us to reflect upon and celebrate the contributions of two longtime public servants who have dedicated their careers to the betterment of our community.

Vernie W. Francis Jr. has served his native Southampton County as sheriff since first being elected to the county’s top law enforcement position in 1984. Twenty-eight years is a long time to do anything. Twenty-eight years is an unbelievably long time to do something that requires the voting public’s approval.

As only the 19th man to hold that position since before the start of the Civil War, Sheriff Francis has indeed earned the approval of the voting public he has served.

On Friday, Mr. Francis announced he will not seek re-election this fall and will retire effective Jan. 1. After nearly three decades serving Southampton County as sheriff, it is a well-deserved reward indeed.

Jeff Turner has served as the head of the Blackwater Nottoway Riverkeeper Program, a local chapter of Waterkeeper Alliance, since he founded it in 2001. His work is highlighted annually by the success of his Clean Rivers Day program.

One day each spring, Turner and an army of volunteers patrol the Blackwater and Nottoway rivers, picking up trash and improving the overall condition of our beautiful waterways.

This year’s event, which was held April 2, netted an impressive 6,100 pounds of trash. The cumulative result of the now 11 annual events has been the collection of an astounding 68,000 pounds of trash.

Clean Rivers Day is one of the most public pieces of evidence that highlights the success and importance of the Riverkeeper program. It doesn’t begin to tell the whole story of what a local treasure Turner himself is.