The Protector of Our Waters

Author, Lila Zuck

On February 4, 1964, Archie Turner ran for mayor against H. Milton Link, member of the Zoning and Planning Board in 1961 and developer of The Moorings in 1957, and won the election.

Archie Turner, Mayor of the City of Naples, 1964-1968.

This year, three polling places instead of two were available to the City’s 2,709 registered voters, the Fire Station, the Methodist Church, and the Church of Christ, and 2,082 of them cast ballots.

A good turnout considering that this election was the first held following the merger of city and county voter registrations and it was expected that many city residents may not have realized they had to register at the County Courthouse in order to be eligible to vote.

Archie Turner had been in city government longer than any other active elected official when he ran for mayor, having served on Naples City Council continuously since 1952. Although he was born in Moorehead, North Carolina on May 25, 1917, in 1940 when Naples became home to the Turner family, the family name became synonymous with the developmental history of the town.

Even though fishing was second nature to Archie Turner, he admitted his easiest catches were the fish he caught on the steps of City Hall after Hurricane Donna retreated.

Archie Turner served in the U.S. Army during World War II, from 1942 to 1946. He was a field artillery master sergeant until the need arose for men with boat handling experience, at which time he was transferred to an amphibious unit. He took part in the Omaha Beach invasion by the Allied Forces of Normandy, France and was awarded the Purple Heart for heroism and promoted to captain, which he refused, preferring to remain a master sergeant. Archie Turner was one of Elisha Turner’s nine children, and weighing in at 12 pounds at birth, he grew up with the reputation of being the strongest man in Naples.

He built sea-worthy boats, fished commercially, and with his brothers operated E. Turner & Sons Marine Ways. By the end of high school he had acquired all the knowledge he needed to get him through life from his father and by virtue of the era during which he was raised. Known to all as a man of his word, he was honest and had integrity. He was environmentally conscious and always had Naples on his mind and in his heart. Archie Turner was everyone’s friend, and most definitely was always ready to go fishing.

During his campaign for Mayor, Archie Turner’s platform was the restoration of marine life to Naples Bay and the preservation of the City’s aquatic resources. Among the promises he made to Naples residents was to maintain open beaches, by preventing developments from building seawalls to the mean high tide water line. He was appointed by Governor C. Farris Bryant, 1961-1965, to serve on the State Beach Erosion Committee.

The first joint meeting between the Board of County Commissioners and Naples City Council was held in early 1962 to discuss water conservation and construction of the Golden Gate drainage canal. A member of City Council at the time, Archie Turner stated that water flowing from the canal into the Gordon River would result in silting of Naples Bay channel, and that the canal would raise the water table enough to render the City’s proposed storm sewer program obsolete.

He warned of the serious threats to the oyster and fishing industries, as well as of the flooding that would be caused by draining 175 square miles of land through a network of 183 miles of canals that flowed into the Golden Gate Canal and then into the Gordon River at an average rate of 81 million gallons annually, a figure which could vary from zero to 600 million gallons a day. He foresaw what he described as “a problem too vast to comprehend.” He was right.

In 1968, newly elected Mayor Wesley Downing presented former Mayor Archie Turner with a Resolution signed by City Council Members and a plaque thanking him for 10 years of service to the City of Naples as a councilman and four years as mayor and a book on salt water fishing, which he could have authored himself had he not been fishing during his free time.

He was a dedicated public servant who never shied away from participating wholeheartedly in every outlandish fundraising event the community concocted.

Although Naples was incorporated in 1923, the first Town Council meeting was held on April 13, 1925. No longer practiced, for many years 1925 was celebrated at the town’s birthday. Such was the case in 1965 when, during Mayor Turner’s first term in office, Naples’ 40th, her Ruby Anniversary, was celebrated.

The celebration drew 1,500 residents to various events at Cambier Park. Sponsored by the Naples Jaycees and the Naples Chamber of Commerce, the theme of the celebration was “Gaiety and Fun” and the event delivered both.

Pony rides at Cambier Park, a record hop in the parking lot and an auction may have been well- received but the dunking tank set up at Cambier Park drew the most attention.

City and County officials were auctioned for a “dip.” The highest bidder aimed, threw his ball, and watched as the doomed official descended into a tank of water.

Among those who received the highest bids were: Mayor Archie Turner, who never shied away from a dare, Assistant State Attorney J. Blan Taylor, who came prepared and wore a bathing suit, Sheriff E. A. “Doug” Hendry, whose wife Marge bid the highest for him, and City Manager Vince Wood, who wore a white dinner jacket and bow tie because he planned on avoiding being dunked, until he heard his name called over the loud speaker and came forward after learning that Police Chief Sam Bass and Sheriff Hendry had been ordered to find him. It was by far a most popular fun-raising fundraiser, bringing down the house each time a ball sprung the trap that brought the occupied seat plunging down into the water.

At the Naples Airport, 12 minute airplane rides over the town cost one penny a pound, with a minimum charge of $1. Passengers’ weights were calculated using the honor system, as scales were not provided.

The main event of the day was the crowning of the Queen of the City of Naples. Selected from 14 candidates, Ida, Mrs. Jerry Capuano, a receptionist at the Naples Medical Center and lucky contestant number 13, was crowned queen. She was presented with a seven and one half karat, anonymously donated, $1,500 ruby ring, set in a cluster of diamonds, made by Johnston Jewels, Ltd. of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, in honor of Naples’ Ruby Anniversary.

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Mayor Archie Turner and Mrs. Jerry Capuano, Queen of the City of Naples.

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Sketch of Miss Naples by Lester Norris, 1965.