Engineering, particularly in the field of water and sewer utilities, has been a nearly lifelong pursuit for local utility official Ben Turnipseed.
“God has really blessed me. I started a company, and I’m blessed it turned out like it did,” Turnipseed said.
The Georgia Institute of Technology inducted Turnipseed, the current chairman of the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission and a 50-year veteran of the water and sewer utilities industry, into its engineering hall of fame this month, recognizing his achievements and contributions to the water and sewer utilities industry.
“I was honored when they gave me that award. I was kind of surprised when I got it,” Turnipseed said.
According to Georgia Tech’s website, induction into the hall of fame is “an honor reserved for alumni who have reached the highest levels of professional achievement.”
“I always wanted to be an engineer since an early age. I didn’t really know what engineering was about at the beginning, but I learned a lot,” Turnipseed said. “... My entire career has been in water and wastewater. I’ve always loved hydraulics.”
He worked for other engineering companies after graduating from Georgia Tech in 1969, ultimately starting his own business, Turnipseed Engineering, in 1978.
“After working for three firms, I decided I’d go out on my own and start my own company, and I did. I’ve been blessed at the company,” Turnipseed said.
Now a part-time member of his firm, Turnipseed still keeps busy.
The company helps more than 100 counties and municipalities build up and maintain their water and sewer utilities by conducting engineering studies, assists them in acquiring funds through grants and loans, designs water production and sewer treatment facilities, selects and supervises contractors and occasionally helps with operating utilities. Some have partnerships going back 40 years, he said.
“We do it from start to finish, and we specialize mainly in water and sewer,” Turnipseed said.
Additionally, he works to provide scholarships for those looking to get into the wastewater industry through Turnipseed Engineering.
“We need people like that. Our industry is getting older, as far as the people working in it, and we need younger people,” Turnipseed said.
A grand jury appointed Turnipseed to serve on the JWSC in 2016. His fellow commissioners elected him to serve as chairman for 2019 in January.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of different issues throughout the state and South Carolina, and I feel like I can help them out. It’s been interesting. I spend a lot more time on it than I thought I would,” Turnipseed said.
He initially applied for the position because he felt the experience he’s gained from his lengthy career could be of use.
“I know what to look for with engineering firms. I feel like I know how to give them suggestions to optimize the cost of the projects,” Turnipseed said. “In any utility business, you want to be careful and not waste ratepayers’ money ... They don’t want us to be spending money meaninglessly.”
While it’s hit some bumps in the road, Turnipseed said he believes in the utility’s ability to succeed.
“I really want it to be the system it needs to be,” Turnipseed said. “It’s the heart and life of Glynn County.”