Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Turn the Page

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 10:00 a.m. May 23, 2014
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Share

Ron Turner spent a good deal of time with the police in DeSoto County when he was a teenager — but it was for a good cause.

Turner volunteered for Joe Varnadore's campaign for county sheriff. The young politico planted signs and knocked on doors for Varnadore, elected sheriff in 1985. “He really took me under his wing,” says Turner.

It also launched what's become a 30-year career in public service, in elected positions and behind the scenes. Turner, now 45, is currently chief of staff for the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office. Named to his post in 2011, he's the No. 2 in the office, where he oversees 29 employees. “I'm passionate about the election process,” says Turner. “I believe in voting and everyone having a voice.”

That dedication has served Turner well. His accolades include recognition in the Business Observer's 40 under 40 issue in 2004, when he ran business services and program development for the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

Turner was an up-and-comer in the DeSoto County political scene before the chamber position. A U.S. Army veteran, he was elected to the Arcadia city council when he was 23 years old, a term that included a vice mayor stint. Turner was also president of the DeSoto County Chamber of Commerce, and after that he was elected DeSoto County Supervisor of Elections. He ran that office in 2000, during the George W. Bush-Al Gore presidential election.

Turner's post-Sarasota chamber career stops have also been built on public service. He managed the first congressional campaign for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, in 2006. After that victory he was named deputy chief of staff and a district director for Buchanan. Turner then spent a year at the helm of Manatee County Habitat for Humanity, before he went to work for Kathy Dent in the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office.

Passion for public service goes beyond Turner's current day job: He recently enrolled in a two-year distance program to earn a master's in public affairs at the University of Missouri. He aims to learn more about the hows and whys of what makes a good public servant. “I admire people who put themselves out there to run for office,” says Turner, “whether they win or not.”

Turner, in his 2004 questionnaire for the 40 under 40 issue, indicated, “a long-term goal is to serve in public office again.” That goal hasn't changed — yet Turner now leans political on his official 2014 answer to that question. “That's a possibility,” say Turner. “If the opportunity presents itself, I will definitely consider it.”

Blast from the Past
Here's a look back at Ron Turner's questionnaire published in the Business Observer's 2004 40 under 40 issue.

First job: Radio disc jockey

Hobbies: Reading biographical, historical and/or political books; biking/swimming; and enjoying cultural activities, movies and plays

Favorite websites: and

Greatest fear: To quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt's famous line from his first inaugural address, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” I am focused on overcoming barriers, obstacles or challenges in life and work, but do not focus on fear.

Described in one word or phrase: Determined

Follow Mark Gordon on Twitter


Latest News


Special Offer: Only $1 Per Week For 1 Year!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.
Join thousands of executives who rely on us for insights spanning Tampa Bay to Naples.