Longtime commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources announced Tuesday that he will step down to lead the Jekyll Island Authority.

This story also appeared in Georgia Recorder

Mark Williams, who has led the agency for more than 12 years, told the Board of Natural Resources that he planned to start his new job on the Golden Isles on July 1.

“A lot of factors weighed into my decision. I love DNR with all my soul, but I love my family more,” Williams said in emotional remarks Tuesday.

“Every hour I spend traveling is an hour I miss with them and Pam,” who is his wife.  Williams, who is a Valdosta native and a former state lawmaker, received a standing ovation at Tuesday’s board meeting in downtown Atlanta.

The state agency has far-reaching and varied responsibilities. Not only does it oversee hunting and fishing in Georgia, but it also manages historic sites as well as state parks and other public lands.

The agency also includes the Environmental Protection Division, which plays an important role in protecting the state’s water and air quality as well as vulnerable plant and animal species.

For example, the EPD will ultimately decide whether to allow an Alabama-based company, Twin Pines Minerals, to mine near the Okefenokee Swamp. The division also regulates the toxic coal ash left behind after decades of burning coal to generate electricity. 

“We have worked through tough issues collectively with a positive tone, and with that attitude, any problem can be solved,” Williams said to the agency’s staff.

Williams is only the sixth person to lead the agency. Gov. Brian Kemp will name his replacement later.

The Jekyll Island Authority, which is the state-designated governing entity that manages the barrier island, unanimously approved Williams’ hiring on the same day, according to the Brunswick News.

As director, he will earn $250,000 with a performance incentive of up to $25,000, according to the Brunswick News. As commissioner, Williams’ salary is $180,000, according to Open Georgia.

The board also voted to give EPD Director Rick Dunn a $15,000 pay raise at its Tuesday meeting. Dunn’s new salary will be $190,000. 

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing...