What is it about Vicki Turner?
She may be the most photographed woman in Fayette County. So say those close to her and so said the publisher of Fayette Woman Magazine when she selected Vicki for the April cover.
Why? Maybe because most of those photos have shown up in this magazine. And deservedly so. Not enough that she’s beyond energetic and pretty. The camera loves her and catches the gleam of her strawberry blonde hair, true. But what is it about Vicki?
In nominating her mom for Fayette Woman, Christy Turner describes a smile that shows her dimples. Those dimples! Maybe that’s it. She doesn’t even have to smile to display a remarkable facial landscape.
A spokesperson from Piedmont Fayette Hospital says, “Vicki walks the talk.” That may be it.
Vicki Turner is involved in more community and civic organizations than most other women have even heard of. Her most recent acclamation was as the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year 2006. She cherishes this compliment, even though she holds a staggering number of such awards and even more positions on boards throughout the county.
Given her family traditions, how could she not? She was brought up to believe in sharing what she has, even if it’s “only” time. That’s what both her parents did. Vicki remembers that it was not at all unusual for them to pass each other on the way to or from their various meetings.
She grew up in Hapeville, on long-gone South Whitney Street, between Virginia Avenue and the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home, property that was eventually bought out by airport expansion. She remembers her childhood as a happy time. She had hundreds of playmates, thanks to the Home, and many of them went from elementary school to high school together. To this day, she makes it a point to attend their high school reunions.
An accomplished artist, Vicki says she was about 18 when she discovered her love for painting; she has studied commercial art and attends an art class to keep sharp the skills she has developed over the years.
Her mom, Gladys, was from Alabama and her dad, Harold, from Bremen, Georgia. He owned and operated Reid Alignment Company, in East Point. Gladys worked part time in the family business, which enabled her to be with her children when they came home from school. She belonged to The Eastern Star, a fraternal organization, and The Home Demonstration Club. Naturally, Mrs. Reid was room mother as soon as her children started school and continued until Vicki graduated.
Oh, and Girl Scouts. When Vicki was a Brownie and a Girl Scout her mom was troop leader.
“It was just natural for me to do the same when my kids went to school,” Vicki says. So she did. “Twenty-seven years ago I started volunteering when my daughters were in elementary school, then did the same thing when they were in middle school, then high school. I sat in on a lot of their classes from elementary through high school.”
Vicki joined whatever Booster group presented itself. She was a Band Booster and served on the board of the Athletic Boosters. She helped with fund-raising: designing T-shirts, putting on a car show, whipping up a spaghetti dinner, whatever raised money. She even volunteered to work in the counselor’s office.
Her father set the standard for involvement. He had a record of perfect attendance at Hapeville Lions Club meetings—for 25 years—and was a Mason and a Shriner. “I have his pins on his little Shriner vest,” Vicki says with poignant pride. Both parents are gone now, and her older brother Larry Reid died young.
Vicki sounds surprised when people comment on her amazing contributions and the awards she has won. “I don’t set out to get awards,” she says. “They just sort of happen. I’m a multi-tasker…always into something. To me, all I’m doing is giving back. I feel so fortunate to have lived in this community for 33 years, being married to Tommy for 38 years. We’ve worked together for 25 years. I feel very fortunate that we can.” They are co-owners of AIS Computers off Ga. Highway 85, north of Fayetteville since 1982.
She thinks part of it may be that when she gets involved with something, she sees it through to completion. Her daughter Christy concurs. They have a long history of collaboration on projects both at home and in the community. “We often engage in creative activities such as painting, decorating, or gardening,” Christy says. “After we complete a project we have built many memories that we can share together.” This extends to the family business: Christy is also employed there as Director of Marketing. She says she has watched her mother’s passion for helping others grow through the years. If Vicki were to put a bumper sticker on her car, says Christy, it would say, “I’d rather be sharing.” The Turners’ older daughter, Michelle Boyd, is married and is Vice President, Real Estate for Group VI Corporation in Peachtree City.
For all her Fayette County recognition, there are a few things people don’t know about Vicki Turner.
Her “best friend” is Charlotte Holland, and has been ever since elementary school. Their lives have almost paralleled. They grew up in Hapeville, did the same “typical girl things,” Charlotte says. “We were in Scouts together; her mother was the leader of our troop. We still go to church together (Fayetteville First United Methodist Church) and we walk and exercise together,” she says.
Vicki also counts as a friend television-child-star Emmanuel Lewis, who played “Webster” for three seasons in the 1980s. When Lewis moved to Fayette County, he came to the Turners’ store, AIS Computers, to purchase computers and have them set up a system for him. He graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a degree in theater arts, in 1997. “He needed help with some projects, and we got acquainted that way,” says Vicki.
That’s called “mentoring.” The word “mentor” comes up often in conversation with Vicki. Mentoring is what the Fayette County Chamber’s Ambassador program is all about.
“Carlton Williams, a longtime businessman in the community, gave me good advice,” Vicki continues, still on friendship. “When I got interested in the Chamber, Carlton told me to get involved by standing near the door, shaking hands with everyone as they came in, and to mentor new members. I attend the Business After Hours and I serve on a lot of committees. One thing added to the other, and this is my ninth year on the Chamber’s Board of Directors. I served as chair in 2004, but I’m still an Ambassador. I came in as an Ambassador and I’ll go out as an Ambassador.”
Considering the hours upon hours our April Fayette Woman spends in meetings and galas, how does she find time to keep a marriage alive? Her reply to that question comes so quickly, you know she has heard it before and has an answer on the tip of her tongue.
“Tommy and I work together, remember? We’re not in the same room, but we’re in the same office, we can have lunch together, and probably see each other more than most working couples.” Vicki oversees the artistic side of the business, the marketing part.
Tommy was born in Athens, Georgia and grew up in Riverdale. He helped launch the company and is now its CEO. Look at this pretty, well turned-out lady and guess how she met her future husband, a handsome Navy man. Give up?
“Actually, my brother introduced us,” she laughs. “He and Tommy enjoyed working on cars, and one day Tommy asked me if I wanted to go for a ride.
I didn’t know I was getting into drag racing!”
Asked what she does when she has a little time for herself, she admits it’s a rare moment. “I’ve always been one who can’t sit still,” she says. “I have to be doing something, and it might be painting.” She’s taken a lot of painting classes since elementary school, and is versatile in many media. Her favorite is acrylic. She loves animals, and particularly likes to memorialize her travels by photographing an animal in his natural element, then painting him when she gets home. A handsome lion thus graces her walls; they met when Vicki and Tommy visited Africa in 2002. “It’s also great because then you never forget your trip,” she adds.
Vicki admits that it can be hard sometimes to decide what to paint, but “other times it’s easy, because I am painting for one of my daughters and I’m working with a color or a theme. I refer to my collection of pictures I have taken through the years. Seeing a beautiful flower or maybe an old boat, car, airplane or train, I have done them all, from a beautiful sunset to a glass of wine. It’s fun to see something the average person would never think about painting and make something beautiful of it.”
Vicki is very serious about her art. “Sometimes I spend months on one painting and view it on the wall for several more. It really depends on how detailed I want to make the painting. The Fayette County Courthouse took about three months.” If she never touches another canvas, the dozens adorning her house —every hallway, every staircase, every flat surface in the house—are her legacy to family, friends, and the county at large.
Vicki is addicted to beauty. Each room of her large mid-Fayette home has something that simply takes the eye and won’t give it back. Her clever hands are also busy with a number of craft items she has under way. Christmas presents, 2007?
Look away from the relatively uncluttered work tables and easels for a moment, and focus on the walls. Although Vicki says she doesn’t usually work on more than two projects at a time, it appears there are a lot of paintings ripening on the vine. Every now and then, one gets a tweak here and a touch there until it’s just right.
Her main project this spring is a portrait of their local handyman in Tennessee. As with nearly all her paintings, she works from photos. It’s tempting to say the acrylic Mr. Bill looks more like Mr. Bill than his photograph does—and that’s without even having met Mr. Bill.
A sampling of her work: An unpaved country road with a rusted-through pickup truck pulled off to the side, a red-tailed hawk soaring overhead. Two empty wooden canoes dragged up on a bank toward the viewer who wonders why they were left there. Florals, like the stunning pair of magnolia flowers above the couch. A credible Mona Lisa over the mantel.
Having judged student art shows, Vicki thinks there is a lot of hidden talent in Fayette County. She relishes her membership in the Society of Fine Art (SOFA) and the Endowment Committee for the Cultural Arts (ECCA). She is pleased to display prints in area charity auctions as well as in the only art gallery in Fayette County. Fayette Arts Center and Gallery, of which Vicki is vice-president, is run by Kathaleen Brewer and recently moved to the Yellow Cottage on Ga. Highway 54 just east of Peachtree City. “We provide access for children and adult art education,” Kathaleen says. “We’re a studio offering education, and a lot of the credit goes to Vicki.”
It should be noted that there is painting—and then there is painting. In addition to canvases in the dining room, Vicki has done a mural on a garage wall, and has painted not just the inside, but also the outside of her house. It’s all white, with tall columns, and she did it herself—borrowing her husband’s bucket truck.
On a larger scale, she’s pleased with the accomplishments of Fayette Senior Services. “I’ve been on their board for six years and this is my third year of being president. I’m so proud that we’ll be in our new center in 2007,” she says.
If Vicki were pushed to name her most satisfactory recent accomplishment, it’s a good bet she’d say, “The rocking chairs for the hospital’s maternity unit.” Last year’s Leadership Fayette, a Chamber mentoring program, raised funds to buy two golf carts for the Courtesy Shuttle volunteers.
This year the group asked the Director of Women’s Services to draw up a wish-list for the new O.B. unit, and she asked for rocking chairs. Developing sponsorships and partnerships within the community, Leadership Fayette donated a total of 14 rockers. As she describes new parents and staff members rocking tiny babies in this lowest of low-tech methods, Vicki’s dimples go even deeper.
The hospital opened in 1997, and Vicki began serving on the Board of Directors in 2006. And for the third consecutive year, Piedmont Fayette has been named one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals. Her colleagues on the board say Vicki gets involved not only as a board member, but as one who understands how important their needs are.
The hospital has 1,000 employees and 250 volunteers, and Vicki has only praise for all of them. She sees Darrell Cutts as a community steward, not just as President and CEO. There is a lot of mutual respect there.
Cutts has become a friend as well as a partner in promoting the hospital and Fayette County. He says, “Vicki is the most dedicated individual in doing things for this community—and she does it without any self-serving motive.”
Her colleagues agree. They admire her can-do attitude and responsibility, her willingness to go “behind the scenes” and ask the tough questions.
The kind of service Vicki Turner offers is critical. She’s not just any noblewoman with dimples.