Danville native named to new state post

March 08, 2004|HERB BROCK

FRANKFORT - Danville native Tierra Kavanaugh Turner observed her 29th birthday Saturday, and she had something very special to celebrate - a new job. And it's not just a new position for her but also for state government.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher announced Friday he was creating a new office aimed at improving conditions for minorities in Kentucky and was filling it with Turner, who lives in Louisville where she operates a business.

Fletcher named Turner to head the new Governor's Office for Minority Empowerment, which he said would be responsible for helping minorities gain better representation in the state. The office is attached directly to the governor's office, and Turner will work in the governor's office complex in the Capitol.

"It is very important to make sure that we empower individuals," Fletcher said. "Government can't do some things, but we can certainly create an environment that will facilitate empowerment of individuals."


Turner said she is up to the challenge of creating that "new environment."

"I'm honored to have been selected for the position and will do everything I can to bolster employment opportunities both in state government and in the private sector as well," Turner said in an interview from her Louisville home Saturday.

Earlier this week, former state Sen. Georgia Davis Powers criticized Fletcher, saying he had not hired enough minority candidates to high-ranking positions within his administration. But Fletcher dismissed the criticism Friday, saying his administration had done "an outstanding job" in that area.

Creating the office was an example, Fletcher said, of his commitment to empowering people.

The new office would be aimed at helping minority applicants get better paying jobs, Fletcher said. Too many minorities working in state government have low-end jobs, he said.

Instead, the new office would work toward improving such things as education and economic conditions for minorities in Kentucky, Fletcher said.

"One of the things that I wanted to do is to make sure that we provide a better environment for minorities in Kentucky so that they can reach their full potential," Fletcher said.

Only 11 minorities hired for 1,200 summer jobs in state parks, resorts

The governor particularly identified summer employment in state parks and resorts as an area where more minority applicants could be hired. Out of 1,200 summer jobs available last year, the state only hired 11 minorities, Fletcher said.

Turner said one of the first items on her agenda will be to improve the minority representation in those summer jobs.

"We're actually going to put together a very aggressive campaign to dramatically increase the number of minorities that will participate in summer employment opportunities," she said.

Increasing the minorities in summer jobs will be part of what Turner calls the "main focus" on her "initial agenda," and that is to "improve the overall numbers of minorities in state government positions, especially high-level positions."

She said she then will implement an ambitious plan to improve employment opportunities for minorities in the public and private sectors around the state.

"I'm developing a strategic plan to empower minorities throughout the state of Kentucky," she said, adding she will be announcing details of the plan sometime in the near future.

Turner is one of two children of Danville city commissioner Chester Kavanaugh and his wife, Sheila. Her brother, Chet Kavanaugh, now lives in Lexington.

After graduating from Danville High School in 1993, she went to the University of Louisville, where she graduated in 1997 with a bachelor of arts degree in economics. She then took a job with American Express, where she worked until 2002. She then began devoting all of her time to a company she had started two years earlier, the Louisville-based Executive Courier Express.

Turner said she got the idea for starting a courier service while on vacation in Atlanta in the late 1990's.

"We saw these vans with a certain company name on them all over Atlanta and were wondering what kind of business could be so busy," she said. "I eventually talked to one of the drivers and was told it was a concierge service."

After returning to Louisville, Turner talked with acquaintances in the business world and decided to scrap the idea of starting a concierge service and, instead, begin a courier service. Executive Courier Express now has 13 employees and is still growing, she said.

"It's a very competitive business, but we have been taking our share of the market," she said.

Turner said she would like to use her own success story in the business world as an example to cite when she is trying to convince minorities to enter management-level positions in the public and private sectors and to urge public and private employers to provide more opportunities for those minorities.

Turner is married to Jeffrey Turner, 35, an employee of United Parcel Service. Jeffrey Turner, 35, also is a Danville native; he is a 1987 graduate of DHS. The Turners have two daughters, Tristan Nicole and Hailey.

Information for this story also was gathered by The Associated Press.

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