After 39 years in the FDNY, First Deputy Commissioner Robert Turner retired Thursday, the same day he became a grandfather again.
”My granddaughter was born today,’’ said a jubilant Turner, 60, referring to the newest member of his family, Olivia.
The Brooklyn resident’s retirement ends a family legacy of firefighting. His father, Robert Turner, joined the FDNY in 1955, and served for more than 40 years.
“For the first time in more than 60 years, the FDNY won’t have a Bob Turner in the department,” said Commissioner Daniel Nigro, who commended Turner’s recent recruiting efforts to increase the number of minorities and women in the department.
Turner “helped lead our outreach to diverse communities and raise awareness about the incredible career opportunities . . . in the department,’’ Nigro said.
Sarinya Srisakul, president of the FDNY’s United Women Firefighters, seconded Nigro’s sentiments, saluting Turner “for his outstanding career and his commitment to diversity within the FDNY.”
Turner, who was appointed first deputy commissioner in 2014, followed the path of his father when he joined the department in 1978. He was briefly assigned to an adjoining Brooklyn fire house Engine 222 where his father served as captain. Shortly afterward, his dad was promoted to chief of battalion, said Turner, remembering his namesake affectionately.
“I had the great pleasure to work together with my father,” said Turner, who like his dad, made a steady climb through the FDNY ranks. While serving as the department’s second-in-command, Turner also worked as director of the First Line Supervisor Training Program, which trains lieutenants. He is also an adjunct instructor at John Jay College, and has trained fire safety directors and taught courses in emergency action plans.
Filling Turner’s post is Deputy Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, who will become acting first deputy commissioner. Kavanagh joined the department in 2014 and has served as a liaison between the fire department and City Hall as assistant commissioner for external affairs.
The man she’ll replace ends a firefighting career that spanned the department’s most harrowing first responder calls, including a 1998 Father’s Day fire in Queens where three firefighters were killed in an explosion, and the 9/11 attacks.
“There are many memories both negative and positive. . . . It was just an honor to serve on behalf of the city,” Turner said.
In 1985, Turner earned the Brooklyn Citizens Medal for Bravery after he entered a burning apartment building while off-duty and rescued several trapped residents.
“I will miss serving the people of this city,’’ he said. “I have always enjoyed and respected the people of the city.”
As a grandfather, Turner said, he will continue to teach his children and grandchildren “to always be prepared for that opportunity and to carry themselves with good ethics.”