First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON - E.B. Turner says talk that he is leaving the county Board of Commissioners is just that - talk.
Turner, who was packing up his things Friday morning, said he is leaving First Baptist Church, where he has been pastor for more than 40 years. That is all.
A moving van was parked outside his parsonage most of Friday. He plans to give his final sermon at the church on Nov. 26.
“I'm retiring from my church,” Turner said, “but I have no plans to retire from the county commissioners or any other county affiliation.”
Turner said he will continue to live in District 1, where he has served as a commissioner since 1992. His term expires in 2008. Before that, he served on the Lumberton City Council.
Rumors have been circulating for two months that Turner plans to leave the county when his stint as pastor is completed. Some of his fellow commissioners suggested privately that Turner might even make an announcement at Monday's board meeting. At least two commissioners said he told board members that he planned to leave Lumberton by Nov. 30.
Turner said those commissioners and The Robesonian have confused his departure from the church with his stepping down from the board.
“If there is an announcement, it won't come until next March or June, if at all … it is not on my priority list,” he said. “Right now I'm a duly elected commissioner ready to carry out my responsibilities.”
Turner also scoffed at claims that he plans to ask former state House Rep. Frances Cummings to be his replacement. It was announced during a book signing for Cummings' autobiography on Oct. 4 in front of about 50 people that Turner had tapped Cummings as his successor.
The same day the announcement was made, Cummings switched political parties from unaffiliated to Democrat, according to records at the county Board of Elections Office.
Cummings could not be appointed by the county Democratic Party to replace Turner unless she is registered as a Democrat.
Cummings said she has not spoken to Turner about the matter.
“It is really Dr. Turner's call,” she said. “If he does make an announcement, I'll be listening just like everyone else.”
Cummings, a retired educator who served two terms in the state House, did say she would welcome the opportunity to serve District 1 on the county board.
“I would be honored that he considered me worthy and would do the best job to represent the people of the district as he has done, but again, that is up to Dr. Turner,” she said.
Robeson County Democratic Party Chairman Lillie McKoy said until Turner makes an announcement, there was little that she could say.
Commissioner Tommy Wellington said he understands that people are curious about what Turner's plans are, but he would not speculate.
“Dr. Turner has done some great things for this county and helped us move forward in a lot of areas,” Wellington said. “We certainly owe him the respect to find out what he plans to do before we jump out there talking about him leaving or who might replace him.”