Rob Williamson has left his position as the executive director of the Holley-Navarre Water System after just over a year at its helm, with board members citing "ongoing disagreements" as the reason for his sudden departure.


The decision to release Williamson from his contract was made Tuesday night, according to board member Daryl Lynchard, who is acting as HNWS executive director until a new person is found.


Williamson's last day was Jan. 29.


"It was a mutual agreement with Rob that he would no longer be the executive director and CEO of Holley-Navarre Water System," Lynchard told the News Journal on Thursday morning. "We left on good terms."


Williamson's salary leaving the water system was $100,000 per year, with an annual cost of living increase.


Williamson did not return multiple calls from the News Journal seeking comment.


He was hired in November 2018, less than three months after being defeated in the District 4 County Commission race after serving on that board for four years. His hiring at the water utility was not without controversy — the executive director job was never publicly posted, and the board members, many of whom had donated to Williamson's failed reelection bid, were criticized for the secretive hiring process.


Four incumbents on the HNWS board have not won re-election in the two elections since 2018. Only two people on the current board — Daryl Lynchard and Will Goulet — were on the board in November 2018 when Williamson was first hired.


Lynchard said that this time, the board will publicly post the job and will hire a professional employment company to conduct the search.


"We really don't need someone to run the water system, we need someone to oversee the organization," Lynchard said.


Williamson's ouster comes at a critical time for the water utility, which has two years to completely revamp its infrastructure or risk reaching maximum capacity for the southern Santa Rosa County region. The water utility provides water services to nearly all of the south end of the county, including unincorporated Gulf Breeze, Midway, Navarre and Holley.


Annie Blanks can be reached at ablanks@pnj.com or 850-435-8632.