Weaselly Williamson and His Ghoulish Groupies

Guest Opinion

The term “snowflake” is the hot buzzword of the hour. It is usually applied to the young, naïvely-preening men and women who whine about appropriated burritos and that pesky protected speech. Sometimes this whining leads to mob action, as it did in Portland this past week. There, a Category Five Twitter storm shut down a small restaurant for the heinous crime of cooking up Mexican grub while sporting white skin. Here in Navarre, a similar mob whipped up a rare blizzard that blew a legally-installed temporary beach sign out to sea, or into “storage,” or something. This screeching snowflake circus found the perfect ringleader in Santa Rosa County Commissioner Rob Williamson, who performed the courageous act of Sunshine State sign removal in the smack-dab dead of night. Williamson’s gallantry was apparently so well-planned that the genius French-cuffed savior of Santa Rosa forgot to bring a hammer.

I shouldn’t have to detail the events that led up to Operation Sign Off. Those events have been publicized ad nauseum for the past year in newspapers, board meetings, and every nook of available online media. Anyone who has seen five minutes of Mad Men knows the drill. Santa Rosa County commissioned a marketing firm to do what marketing firms do: market. The Board and the Tourist Development Council selected a campaign based on research conducted by the firm. They then cut the firm a check and awaited delivery of the new signs. The process couldn’t have been more visible to the public had it been gold-plated and wrapped in flashing neon.

However, snowflakes are not interested in process. They are interested in Emotion, with a capital E. Having apparently just now crawled out from under their social media rock, the snowflakes first hissed at the blinding daylight that is reality. Once their eyes adjusted to what we human beings had been following for months – the rollout of the new ad campaign – they immediately burrowed back into their sand and began furiously typing out their admonitions like slimy Tolkienesque riddle-makers. “We want our old sign back!” they gurgled, seemingly allergic to both the republican process and the thought of more cash flowing into their pockets.

And like a Selfie warrior in a pinstripe suit, Rob Williamson swooped in with his trusty pickup truck and performed what has to be some sort of ridiculous misdemeanor.

His post hoc justification is just as absurd as the action it tries to justifies.

“Last night,” Williamson told WEAR Channel 3, “when seeing that sign that was out there, [it] was definitely not what I voted for, or what the board approved.”

Bull hockey. The content, color, and specific design of the sign was exactly what Williamson voted for; it just happened to be a temporary metal manifestation, a generous last minute solution to an unforeseen problem. I can guarantee you that Williamson did not vote for four stark white bare poles sticking out of a pile of brown mulch, but that is what he left us with after his little adolescent stunt.

Whether he realizes it or not, Williamson’s limp-wristed high five to his social media groupies was a direct affront to our system of government and a backhanded “futue te ipsum” to his fellow board members. He insulted the marketing firm duly hired by said members. He flicked his nose at the sign-maker who graciously redeemed an unforeseeable error, at the business owners of Navarre, and at the citizens who elected him to understand how all this is supposed to work. If you or I, or anyone else in this county, had hauled that sign away under the cover of darkness, we’d be reading this paper in our lawyer’s waiting room right now, having just scrubbed that pesky jail scent out of our hair.

One can hate the sign. One can loathe the tagline. But we are not a mob, and we do not live in anarchy. In the words of another famous marketing campaign: “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.” No sole commissioner has unilateral executive authority to take this kind of action, let alone hammer out a political stunt to satisfy the online pitchfork crowd. For his actions, Williamson should be removed as chairman – as a start. If the Board has anything resembling an aggregate dignity, they’ll do just that.

Williamson says he wants business in Santa Rosa County… well… if the collective minds of all involved are being tortured to this extent over four words on a sign, at least one business should start thriving any minute: clinical psychotherapy.


Bart Steele

Navarre, FL



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