Networking is a predictable course for many job seekers. And capturing opportunities leading to career advancement is the path of most professionals. These practices continue to serve Jerry Turner, Jr. well as he now makes the State’s W2 social welfare more efficient and consumer-friendly.
A Milwaukee native, “born, bred and raised as an only child, my family are fifth generation members of the International AME church. And, St. Marks AME, our local church continues to be more than a house of worship, it is church family, my source of advocacy and a constant that impacts my daily life,” Mr. Turner imparts.
Today, he is a Unit Administrator for the State’s Department of Health Services. Almost a month in the new post, Turner feels that he has found the position he loves and one where he can make his greatest contribution. His portfolio includes, banking, insurance, customer service, income maintenance and delivery. Yet, he has over three years in social services under his belt.
He worked at Milwaukee County’s Department on Aging in the fiscal area, with guardians with Power of Attorney for the aged. He insured that medical benefits from the State were used according to mandates. “I loved this area of advocacy,” he said.
For a brief period, he also worked in the County Child Care Division as a Payment Liaison, where he verified attendance for Child Day Care Providers and was aggressive in changing cultural attitudes and stereotypes.
Financial reporting at Assurance Health, and before that U.S. Bank and Chase Bank One were step-by-step professional successes that predated his current position.
“The irony in my career trajectory and utilization of skills is that I detested math, throughout school,” Turner laughed. “My Dad was the mathematician! If one had predicted I would choose something dealing with math, I would have said ‘No Way.’ However, when I reached Alcorn State University and began classes, I found that I liked resolving and reconciling books and records. It just points up the importance of testing and sampling many areas in school. One’s aptitude may be totally different from grade school or high school preferences. I love my job, today,” he said.
Giving hope that things will turn around for people in crisis represents highpoints in Turner’s day. “Being able to supply or make referrals to other agencies to help people meet the challenges of their day are uplifting to me.
“I always remind my assistants that if the person before them did not need our services we would not have a job. More importantly, ‘only through the grace of God, there go I.’ We must give utmost respect and professional assistance, always,” he reminds.
Compassion and sensitivity are values Turner learned at his parent’s dinner table and they were reinforced in church. His mother and father worked for Milwaukee Public Schools. His Mom taught at Benjamin Franklin School for some 20 years and his Dad was a Manager in Facilities and Maintenance for MPS. Daily discussions about challenges and their achievements meant much to young Jerry as he grew to understand the importance of giving, doing a good job, recognizing everyone’s gifts and talents, and their right to be respected.
Yet neither teaching nor carpentry held personal interest for Jerry, Jr. and only at Alcorn did he begin to examine his calling and a long-term career. Mentors and associates helped him scale a new city, new school and many friends. But when he graduated he wanted to return to Milwaukee to begin anew.
“Milwaukee’s current leadership is weighted with many seasoned and treasured leaders, who are beginning to retire, scale-down or move on to late-stage life goals. This is the optimal city for young professionals desiring to play leadership roles in Milwaukee.”
“A lot of my friends left but are now returning because they feel a real stake in the city and they want to give back. Milwaukee continues to be a great city lost in the luster of larger cities like Chicago or Detroit, yet we have more natural resources than many, plus a growing academic-pool schooled in numerous cities, and they bring a wealth of ideas and freshness,” Turner continued.
In addition to his work, Jerry, Jr. continues a busy schedule with his church. He had been an International President of the Young People’s Division of the AME Church and the International President of the Young Adults Council. The Leadership of the AME Church worldwide has observed him for a number of years and lauds his tenacity and ability to bridge various age groups. He manages the St. Mark Cyber Café class, where seniors and youth learn to use the computer, held in the Lovell Johnson Quality of Life Center.
Turner mentored a young man throughout his years at Alcorn State University. In fact, he recently attended the young man’s grandmother’s funeral. Mrs. Doris Brown, a social welfare pioneer and home visitor, for years, helped pave the way for Turner and her grandson to follow. Devoted to wisdom and committed to supporting sincere effort, Turner continues to reach people where they are and share the resources in his personal and professional arsenal.
“You know, I always knew my folks were gems but sometimes you only get to the know the depths of their value, and how they gave so unselfishly, after others share their stories with you. I have met many people whom my parents have helped. Several said, ‘I wanted to be just like your Mom,’ or ‘your Dad helped us so much, we could never really pay him.’ Their perspectives made me refine my own, in so many ways.”
Mr. Turner, Sr. used to remodel and re-build homes within the central city. He did it just to help people better their conditions within the inner city. “He used to take me every Saturday to some of his sites. I loved to go, not because I liked the work but it was time with my Dad and I knew we would have McDonalds, throughout the day. Of course, we left the job and checked on things at the church, in preparation for Sunday Services, so these routines were deeply entrenched without me really understanding how they were influencing my beliefs. I thank them both, today.”
Jerry Turner, Jr. now prepares to run for the office of President of the Milwaukee Urban League Guild, an auxiliary arm of the League. He has been a member for a few years, and is currently the Treasurer. “There’s a need to be more active,” he shared. “ If elected, I would like to make sure the Guild is an ambassador for the work of the Board of Directors. Bring more people into the fold, the old and young. The Guild must compliment the League and be totally about it services.”
The League’s Young Professionals auxiliary has an age 40 and below designation, so at age 36, Turner, technically, can participate in that group. But he chose the Guild so that a graduation bridge can be promoted to keep the Urban League growing from early school- age educational opportunities through adulthood and senior status. Turner has worked with all age categories, so his experiences already give him confidence.
Jerry Turner, Jr. is a young man on a mission: one of giving back! Recognizing the gifts so generously given him by his parents, church, his community and innumerable mentors and role models, he believes that destiny has brought him to his new position and the prospect of community advocacy and support through the Milwaukee Urban League.
Girded by faith, family and purpose, Jerry Turner, Jr. represents the fullness of the Second Line. He daily builds upon the strengths laid by those before him and confidently accepts the baton of his generation. He foretells of the excitement of moving their gifts and talents forward in preparation for the next generation that blossoms. This is the wonder of “The Second Line.” Jerry Turner, Jr., professional extraordinaire.