Georgia Department of Natural Resources chief stepping down

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Commissioner Mark Williams is leaving the role to become executive director of the Jekyll Island Authority

Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Mark Williams announced Tuesday that he is stepping down from his position after more than 12 years at the helm of the vast agency tasked with managing the state’s wildlife and natural resources.

Williams informed the DNR board of his decision during its monthly meeting in downtown Atlanta and said he was leaving to lead the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA), a state entity that manages the island. Around the same time he announced his departure from the DNR, The Brunswick News reported that the JIA’s board voted unanimously to install Williams as its new executive director.

Williams had served as DNR Commissioner since 2010, when he was tabbed to become the department’s sixth chief by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The department has five divisions and around 1,600 employees spread across the state managing roughly 1 million acres of public lands in the form of state parks, fishing areas, wildlife management areas and other nature preserves. Also under the DNR umbrella is the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which ensures the state and its businesses comply with both federal and state standards on water quality, air quality, hazardous waste handling and more.

In an emotional farewell, Williams — who lives near the coast in Jesup — thanked DNR employees and said his decision to leave was driven by a desire to spend more time with family.

“A lot of factors weighed into my decision,” he said. “I love DNR with all my soul, but I love my family more.”

Gov. Brian Kemp will be tasked with appointing Williams’ successor, but it was not immediately clear who the governor’s top choices are or when he’d select a replacement.