Contracting family mourns loss of legendary mentor
July 7, 2011
William E. "Bill" Turnis, considered a legend and mentor in Army contracting circles, died June 25. He was 65.
Turnis served more than 33 years as a government employee, retiring in 2005 as the director of acquisition and the principal assistant responsible for contracting for the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, Rock Island Arsenal, Ill.
"Bill Turnis was an outstanding leader. The main reason for this was that he truly cared--cared about the mission and cared about his people," said Jeff Parsons, Army Contracting Command executive director. "First and foremost, he was a family man, but we were all a part of his family. He knew, liked, and was liked by every member of his extended workforce family."
Turnis was a strong advocate for replenishing and revitalizing ACC-Rock Island's aging workforce.
"When I first entered my current position in August 2001, I found that I was looking at a contracting workforce with an average age of 51 and I was very comfortable since I blended right in," Turnis once said, discussing the need for workforce revitalization.
He aggressively promoted the Intern Program within the command as a major resource for talented, educated candidates to replenish and revitalize the aging workforce. Under his guidance and direction, ACC-Rock Island used several different hiring authorities and intern programs to recruit among local colleges and universities for the cream of the graduating classes.
In addition to pushing for increased allocations for Army interns, he worked within the command to obtain necessary funds and authorizations to hire locally-funded interns.
"Bill Turnis was just an all-around nice guy who just happened to be an exceptional contracting professional," said Mike Hutchison, ACC-RI executive director. "Throw in the fact that he was a natural leader, and voila"you've got the perfect director of contracting.
"People liked Bill," Hutchison added. "They liked working for him; they liked working with him. He was a very genuine human being. He really cared about the mission and he conveyed that concern to everyone. His bottom line was the soldier out there on the front lines."
Those sentiments were echoed by Kay Stromer, just one of many ACC-RI employees mentored by Turnis.
"Mr. Turnis was a really fantastic mentor because he showed by doing and by being," she said. "He knew the work. He understood what was being done by everyone who worked for him, and he could help you understand it, too. He was a true role model."
Turnis' commitment to workforce revitalization was captured in the citation of his Meritorious Civilian Service award, presented at his retirement:
"His vision of revitalizing the workforce became a part of the culture of ACC-RI and was perpetuated by subsequent leadership, resulting in a vital and stable contracting workforce with a significantly lower average age, a higher level of formal education and career training, and a stronger emphasis on leadership training and experience. Mr. Turnis' personal attention to hiring and mentoring interns was a pivotal factor in ensuring the continued success of ACC-RI in supporting its mission."