By Charley Lollis
One of Odum, Georgia’s residents of just over 400, Mark Williams, is making his mark on the map in rural Georgia as the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In 2006, Williams began his work in Atlanta serving rural Georgia in the House of Representatives.
He served as House District 178’s state representative for two terms. In 2010, after the completion of his two terms, former Governor Sonny Perdue appointed Williams to serve DNR as commissioner. Today, he continues to serve in this role for the state and serve in rural Georgia, which has always held a special place in his heart.
Rural Georgia Roots
Commissioner Williams’ roots in rural Georgia don't only run deep, but wide as well. Throughout the many phases of his life, he learned that there is more to rural Georgia than just dirt roads.
Growing up in North Georgia, he learned about the rural, middle Georgia area when he moved off to college. After graduating with a degree in biology from Georgia College and State University in rural Baldwin County, Williams’ career path started as a high school teacher and coach in south Georgia.
With a few moves around the state, Williams returned to southeast Georgia to continue his career, became involved with the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and the local Rotary Club.
“Having raised my family in rural Georgia for over 30 years, my time in rural Georgia does not end there… I have not only spent my entire life in rural Georgia, but I also have firsthand experience of different rural regions of the state,” shared Williams.
Serving Rural Georgia
"DNR, by its very nature and mission, is based and operates primarily in rural parts of the state,” Williams states. “Pristine wildlife habitat, beautiful green spaces, and open skies, water trails through coastal salt marsh are rural Georgia. The vast majority of DNR properties, offices, presence, and employees exist outside of urban areas."
Williams, alongside the DNR, serves rural Georgians every day through their efforts to protect and preserve our land and wildlife. The DNR strives to attract urban citizens to rural areas creating awareness and a positive economic impact.
Rural Georgia Impacts
Rural Georgia has profoundly impacted Commissioner Williams, and he is thankful for the career opportunities and space to raise his family in rural areas of the state.
"Living in rural Georgia made me who I am today, specifically by instilling care for the community, an appreciation of the natural world, and a commitment to hard work," Williams explains.
His care for the community and the many times he saw communities support one another influenced him to run for public office.
"If a tree falls across your neighbor's driveway, you grab a chainsaw and get to work,” Williams illustrates. “If the local diner is on the verge of closing, you choose to eat lunch there twice a week. It is nearly everyday situations like these in rural life that create a great sense of service to your neighbors and community."
Something Commissioner Williams wants every rural (and non-rural) Georgian to know.
Williams wants every Georgian to understand and make the most of the unique ecosystems we have located all across Georgia. From one of the last remaining temperate rainforests on earth within the Blue Ridge Mountains to the pristine undeveloped saltmarsh on the Atlantic seaboard and many other geographic features in between, Georgia champions a distinctive biodiversity. The multiple ecosystems support prime sporting, hunting, and fishing opportunities in Georgia all citizens can explore and enjoy.
“Rural Georgia presents boundless opportunities to pursue adventure and high quality of life. Georgia is blessed to have one of the country’s most diverse ecosystems and a complex of geographic features rarely seen in most states and even countries. From being home to one of the last remaining temperate rainforests on earth contained within the Blue Ridge Mountains of north Georgia to the largest stretch of pristine undeveloped saltmarsh remaining on the Atlantic seaboard and everything in between, Georgia truly has it all for people to explore and enjoy. Rural Georgians are beyond fortunate to live among these natural resources in a way that allows for constant access to sporting and recreation opportunities. It is this close and deep connection to the land, air, and water of Georgia that makes me feel the most proud to be called a rural Georgian.”
Hope in Rural Communities
“Rural Georgians are very dedicated, responsible, and community-minded. These qualities are exactly the ones required to address the challenges facing our communities. I am hopeful for bright futures in Georgia’s rural communities because I hold confidence in my fellow rural Georgians to come together to move forward.”
Williams also shared that as this is happening, DNR is going to be right there as an invested partner - providing recreational opportunities for good health, resources and services, and economic growth.