Williamson’s Facebook rant prompts response

From Commissioner Williamson on his Facebook page:

Good article in press gazette.

The Navarre Press had 10 articles attacking Tough Mudder this year.
The Navarre Press had 0 articles attacking Tough Mudder last year.

That’s does not seem subjective, it’s personal.
The sad part is, losing this event did not need to happen.

In the competitive world we live in today, where we are fighting for every dollar, every new job and every advantage; we shouldn’t be fighting each other.

Instead of looking for ways to support this event and help the community continue building a partnership to retain such a recognizable and successful national brand, the owner of the Navarre Press and a few of her usual suspects decided to, once again, go in the opposite direction. The problem is this time their personal agenda has caused real pain.
Why the sudden change in coverage and commentary?
Is it because someone had the audacity to disagree with the recommendation to only give TM $20,000? Because TM ONLY had 11% growth this year and ONLY brought 6000 participants? Because TM ONLY had a $2.5 million regional economic impact instead of $6 million?
Guess what, that is still a HUGE WIN FOR SRC and a HUGE return on our investment.

Congratulations Sandi, Rob, Jack, TJ and Gilbert.
You won. Tough Mudder isn’t coming back. You won but your win comes at a tremendous cost. You may have won but SRC tourism and the small businesses that depend on our tourism economy lost.

Name another one day event in the last 20 years that has brought 5500+ visitors with 2000 of them coming from outside the STATE OF FLORIDA? That’s what TM brought to SRC on the Saturday of this year’s event. These 25-45 year old “Mudders” had a median income of $75,000 per year and most of them were FIRST TIME VISITORS to our county. Now they will likely not return.

In today’s viral social media age, successful national brands like Tough Mudder cannot afford to put their brand at risk by coming to an area that is attacking them for no good reason.
We invested $80,000 of money paid to us by visitors to our county and we DID NOT LOSE ONE PENNY OF THAT MONEY. SRC made money. SRC made a lot of money. SRC small businesses made money. The local HAAS study proves we made a lot of money.
No amount of negative articles, letters to the editor or FB posts attacking TM or me will change that.
Unfortunately for SRC and our region, those dollars will now go to help another community and help small business owners and families somewhere else.

I would prefer you continue attacking me and leave companies like Tough Mudder alone.
Please keep your attacks focused on me because those don’t result in money or jobs lost for our county.


To Commissioner Rob Williamson,

Thank you for being an avid reader of Navarre Press!

After seeing your media tour about how Navarre Press is responsible for Tough Mudder not returning next year, we felt compelled to reply.  Although we would much rather do this over coffee at our office, you won’t return our calls so we will do it publicly as you have.

The Navarre Press actually had eight articles regarding Tough Mudder this year.  Last year, we the taxpayers and the visitors contributed ZERO dollars to the FOR-profit company when they came to town.  This year our bed-tax dollars, of which at least 70 percent come from Navarre Beach, contributed $80,000 to a company that makes at least $1 million to put on the Tough Mudder event.  That requires us to cover the story as the watchdogs of all tax dollars.  That is one reason we exist.

You are correct, sir, when you say that we are fighting for every dollar – that is why we put every dollar under the microscope.  This commission has a record of throwing dollars at the wrong projects, or throwing too many dollars at projects.  We are afraid to know what would happen if no one were looking.

“Is it because someone had the audacity to disagree with the recommendation to only giving TM $20,000?”  Well, commissioner, that is part of it.  You have a Tourist Development Advisory Council put in place by the Florida Legislature to guide you on money-spending decisions and you are deaf to anything they have to say.  And you rarely attend the committee meetings for the Tourist Development Council.  As it has been throughout your term, it’s your way or the highway.  So much so that you tried to do away with the committees.

And yes, numbers do matter.  According to the Haas Center’s report, while the regional impact was $2.5 million, Santa Rosa County’s impact was $1.4 million.  So you should be expecting a thank you letter from Escambia and Okaloosa counties as they laugh all the way to the bank for attaining more than a million-dollar impact without having to pay anything at all.  And in the survey sent out by the Haas Center, 65 percent of respondents said they would visit Santa Rosa County again without a Tough Mudder event.

You gave TM $100,000 without even blinking and yet the NONprofits that apply for grants for just $3,000 or $10,000 have to jump through hoops to get any money from the county.

You have always felt personally attacked by our newspaper, when in fact, your position requires us to keep you in our sights always and scrutinize all actions of you and other elected officials.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake, even millions.  If left on your own accord, we would be in serious trouble.

You represent Milton and the north end of the county quite well.  But you forget which district is yours.  We have better representation from your colleagues than we do from you.  You recently held a listening tour with two meetings in South Santa Rosa and then you headed north.  We wonder how your colleagues felt when you “listened” to their constituents in their districts.

Navarre Press does not divide the community. Those who don’t like to be held accountable blame us when things don’t go exactly as planned, like the Tough Mudder experiment.  It’s a distraction tactic used for generations.  “Don’t look at me – look over there and see how horrible those people are.” Well, commissioner, your smoke-screen technique is child’s play.  We are still looking at you and we will continue to do so as we continue to perform our jobs throughout your term and we will be looking at the next elected commissioner just as closely.  Our readers expect nothing less.

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