Heart of Louisiana: Old Politics

Heart of Louisiana: Old Politics

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Following such a divisive election, we thought we’d spend some time with a politician that almost anyone can like, no matter their party affiliation. He’s been in office longer than many of us have been alive.

I first met Dr. I.C. Turnley in his office in Jena six years ago. He was born and raised in this small central Louisiana city and has worked here all of his life. And the old bag that he used for house calls still has some of the old medicines.

“Amatol,” Turnley said, digging in the bag. “They quit using that 40 years ago.”

At the time, Dr. Turnley was serving his 14th term as Lasalle Parish coroner. He was later re-elected to another four-year term, which expires at the end of 2019.

McNamara: “You know, when you and I talk six years ago, you said that was your last term. You weren't going to run again. What happened?”

Turnley: “They taught me into it. They said, ‘We'll make, we'll help you out. All, all you have to do is just be the coroner and sign the papers.’”

And that’s pretty much been the story of this 91-year-old’s life as a reluctant politician since he first ran for office in 1959. That’s when Jimmy Davis was governor and Eisenhower was president. He said the sheriff at the time told him he had to run for coroner.

McNamara: “Have you ever said, ‘Look, I don't want to do this anymore?’”

Turnley: “A time or two, but they get, they get after me about that. They say, “We're not going to let you do it.’”

And if he forgets to register for reelection, someone will do it for him and pay the fee. He’s never faced any opposition.

McNamara: “What are your feelings about the state of politics in America today?”

Turnley: “They're deteriorating, and I hope that we can save that from happening.”

Doc Turnley hasn’t had to worry about negative campaign ads. In fact, he doesn’t worry about campaigning.

So will he run again next year?

Turnley: “I might.”

Mcnamara: “Never say never.”

Turnley: “Right. I don't like retirement. I like to work.”

For this public servant, holding office is really about serving the public.

“That gives me a lot of pleasure when I can help someone that needs help,” Turnley said.

And it’s a pleasure just hearing a politician who says that and has proven for nearly 60 years that he really means it.

Dr. Turnley is the longest-serving elected official in the state of Louisiana. He will hit the 60-year mark as coroner when his term ends next year.

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