Neither Jeff Underwood nor Sgt. Paula Turner planned to spend the majority of their careers working at the same building. But after a combined 57 years, they are retiring from public service with fond memories and exciting plans.
County government was very different when Turner began her career in law enforcement in 1987 at the old Bannock County Jail. At 21-years-old, she became one of the first women to work for the jail and later as a court marshal for the Bannock County Courthouse.
“We didn’t have many women in law enforcement when I started,” Turner said. “It was difficult because women weren’t very well appreciated in this male-dominated field, and it took a long time before we started seeing women being accepted into that position. It’s very different now; we’ve come a long way for women being accepted in law enforcement.”
Ranked as the fourth-longest serving Bannock County employee, Turner has worked under four sheriffs and 20 commissioners. In her time as a court marshal, Turner worked with 36 judges but spent most of her time assigned to Judge Rick Carnaroli in courtroom 114, who describes her as an excellent member of his team and a true professional.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the nineteen years I worked with Paula Turner. She strived to provide the best service to the public as a court marshal and later as a Sergeant overseeing our entire staff of court marshals,” Judge Carnaroli said.
Turner often went above and beyond the required duties of her position. Several years ago, with the help of Judge Carnaroli, Turner organized a book drive for the local jail inmates.
“She boxed up and delivered over a thousand used books for Bannock County inmates and inmates at Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center,” Judge Carnaroli said. “She is a wonderful human being, a good friend, and will be missed.”
Turner was present for several of Bannock County’s most infamous moments, including the Ligertown incident, the duct-taping incident of Nicholas Frasure, and the Adamcik/Draper trials – the first trial in the area to sequester the jury.
That experience helped her author a handbook on managing a sequestered jury after she was promoted to Sergeant in 2018.
Turner was also present for the trial of James Edward Wood, the man convicted of murdering Jeff Underwood’s 11-year-old daughter, Jeralee.
Underwood began his career as the Director of Maintenance and Facilities at Bannock County in December 2002, after Wood’s trial commenced. He said he always felt supported by the attorneys and judges trying the case, who were now his new coworkers.
In February 2004, Underwood remembers his wife, Joyce, coming to the courthouse to inform him that Wood, his daughter’s murderer, died in prison.
“The prosecuting attorney took us into Judge Peter McDermott’s courtroom in the middle of court, stopped the proceedings, and walked us into his chambers to talk us through what this development meant for us and our daughter’s case,” Underwood said. “I consider it a happy memory because the case was done, finished.”
Other memories of his time at the Bannock County Courthouse stand out to Underwood, like when the second floor of the old jail flooded while he was out of town.
“When I first started, the facilities were in pretty rough shape. There was no meter on the boiler, so I investigated and found that we were using 880 gallons a day to heat the courthouse. We should have been using 15 gallons a day at most,” Underwood said.
His problem-solving skills and extensive knowledge of facility management helped him fix that issue, among many others, and improve the efficiency of the courthouse and its operations.
Former Commissioner Steve Brown, who worked with Underwood for years, emphasized Underwood’s ability to improve the efficiency of Bannock County.]
“Jeff’s many years of quiet service was largely unseen by many, but his dedication has had an indelible impact on the citizens of Bannock County,” Brown said. “While his physical stature may not be large, his pure character stands heads and shoulders above most people I’ve met. To know Jeff is to love Jeff. He will be missed, but he has earned every minute of his retirement.”
Underwood said he will miss being busy, and the variety of duties his job offers, but what he will miss the most is the people.
“Usually, when I’m doing something like tending to the rose beds, people will come up and ask me what I’m doing and get advice,” Underwood said. “I love the opportunity to help somebody.”
Both Turner and Underwood have plans to stay busy in retirement. Turner’s plans for retirement include remodeling properties, picking up old hobbies again, and spending time with family. Underwood is looking forward to a season of gardening and then pursuing a mission with his wife for their church.