John Turmell graduated in 1964 from The University of Montana with a bachelor’s degree in business, majoring in management. After graduation, he worked at the family auto dealership in Missoula and, a short time later, he enrolled in the General Motors Institute where he received a degree in dealership management.
When John’s father passed away, the family sold its interest in the business to partner, Robert DeMarois. In August of 1968, John moved his family to California where he joined Toyota Motor Sales, USA. His career highlights include: implementing Toyota’s vehicle inventory control, allocation, and production ordering systems; starting up Cincinnati and Boston regional operations as well as the port operation in Long Beach; and consolidating the parts and service logistical groups. John also established Toyota’s current dealership signage and facility standards known as “Image USA.” He went on to hold management positions in the Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and Boston regions. John returned to Toyota headquarters in California where he held several key positions in sales administration, distribution, and fleet sales.
In 1993, John became general manager of the forklift division, expanding the dealer body to support a new plant in Columbus, Indiana. He also negotiated Toyota’s first partnership with a U.S. company to produce a large forklift product. John moved to Toyota’s service and parts division in 1997 as group vice president. In 1998, he was appointed senior vice president of all customer service groups and affiliated companies, which included the forklift group; Airflight, which is responsible for the full coordination and management of Toyota’s company aircraft; and a marine sports division that built a ski and wakeboard boat.
John retired at the beginning of 2002, after thirty-three years of service. John continues to be active in UM Alumni Association activities and is on the Board of Directors of the National American Indian Business Leaders organization. John and his spouse, Mary Ellen, spend their time in Bigfork and California. They have two sons, Jay and Joe.