By Lee Hurley

Seventy-six-year-old Ron Turney grew up in Jeanette, Pennsylvania, approximately 30 miles from Pittsburgh. Back then, Pittsburgh was a blue collar town—much like Birmingham—and Ron’s dad worked for General Motors in the metal stamping plant. Turney attended the University of Pittsburgh where he double majored in economics and philosophy, which might seem odd but felt perfectly natural to him. “Philosophy teaches people to think about our world and so does economics,” he says.

Disney World and the advent of the computer

Jobs were plentiful when Ron graduated in the ‘70s, and his first offer came close to home. But a fast-growing company called RCA was making something called computers in Coral Gambles, Florida, and they asked him to interview for a sales job. “I jumped on a plane headed south and thought I had died and gone to heaven.” Ron became a junior sales rep where he and his senior rep partner Buddy ended up with a new client in Orlando, Florida, called Disney World. “These computers were huge things and cost as much as $180,000,” Ron says.  Life was good. Ron had a boat, a condo, and a Porsche 914. But RCA decided to get out of the computer business, selling the division to then-rival Sperry Corporation, which left Ron looking for work.

Alabama bound, Carol, and Navajo Pines

For the next few years, Ron worked for Computer Data Systems and the Florida Secretary of State before joining Unisys Corp., which would keep him gainfully employed in technology until his retirement in 2009. Ron’s transition to Alabama came from a company executive named Tom Allen who recruited him to Birmingham to help implement new technology at BellSouth. By this time, Ron and Carol were married, and they moved into the last brand-new spec house on Navajo Pines in Alabaster.

Heather and helping others

Carol and Ron’s daughter Heather was born in 1976, and up until she passed away five years ago with a rare asthma disease. She was as Carol says, “a kindred spirit, an old soul.” After obtaining her degree in neuropsychology Heather’s life was directed toward helping others.  She volunteered with the Liver Transplant Team and those with Alzheimer’s, and after his retirement, Ron joined Heather in support of the Lutheran Disaster Response effort, which helped those in need find shelter after the devastating tornadoes that ripped through Alabama in 2011.

The Airport Authority

In the mid ‘90s Ron was elected Chairman of the Board of the Shelby County Airport Authority. Ron and his board had a vision to develop a successful industrial park adjacent to the airport, and while it didn’t happen the way they had planned, it happened eventually and is now called Shelby West. During Ron’s tenure, the National Weather Service moved onto the property and just celebrated its 30th anniversary. Ron also became a pilot along the way owning two different planes.

Alabaster today

And how do Ron and Carol feel about Alabaster’s growth and leadership in the last few years? “Alabaster has a strong revenue stream with the Propst Promenade and is doing a great job of making our city attractive to citizens,” Ron says. “Let’s face it, the school is a huge draw, the activity centers are a huge draw, the parks are huge, and this blueprint for the city is the right thing to do.”. Carol adds, “The city now has visionaries. Stacy Rakestraw, like all of them, is advanced in her thinking. It’s a great place to live.”