To some, Jones Hooks may be wearing just a collared purple shirt. But for Hooks, and those who know him well, this energetic attire translates his overall life and career philosophy.
For Hooks, a purple shirt is not merely a purple shirt. It is a statement, a statement that has nothing to do with fashion, and everything to do with attitudes.
"At another job, the people who were creative thinkers, who had ideas that were out of the box, they were the people I called the Purple Shirts," Hooks explains. "And so when I left, they gave me a purple shirt. And the idea just kind of stuck around."
Stepping in as the new executive director of the Jekyll Island Authority - in a time when the state-owned island is undertaking a massive transformation and aching for revitalization - Hooks' purple shirt attitude is a strength he will need in his corner.
Since July, when he came on board to lead the staff of the island's governing body, Hooks has been orienting himself with the island, getting to know its inhabitants, employees and visitors. To Hooks, Jekyll is not just a place to work. It's the place he lives, the place he plays and the place he is quickly making friends.
Walking alongside him as he tours the island, Hooks' true connection to the place in not only obvious, it's palpable. Mid-sentence, he stops to pick up litter mid-sentence, he interrupts himself to wave hello to a passerby mid-sentence, he just stops, takes in a deep breath, and surveys the island around him.
There is no one thing about the island that Hooks can pinpoint as his utmost favorite. Is it the serenity? Perhaps its the beach access and miles of bike paths? What about the passion of its residents? Sure, those are all great things, he said.
But mention the future of Jekyll, the potential of the island that has yet to be fully tapped and the mound of endless possibilities to improve the place, and Hooks truly lights up. He may not say as much in words, but this is, quite assuredly, the aspect of the island that Hooks loves the most.
The first step in pumping out Jekyll's retooling came earlier this month, when Linger Longer Communities announced its final master plan for revitalizing a beachfront section of the island.
Yet the much-debated plan is only the beginning and only a part of what Hooks envisions for the island.
Attracting new and returning old businesses to the island, namely through a rebuilt convention center, is the overall goal of revitalization, Hooks said.
"That is the end goal of all of this," he said. "We have to get business back on the island. We have to be self-sustaining."
Linger Longer Communities, the private firm tapped to remodel the convention center and create the surrounding beach village area, will be key for pushing in larger tourist crowds.
But, the responsibility of re-invigorating Jekyll does not squarely lie on the shoulders of Linger Longer, Hooks is quick to point out. The revitalization of Jekyll is a community-wide effort.
Linger Longer setting up shop on the island's beachfront is certainly a launching pad for change, and will provide a very tangible aspect of the island's revamping. But other elements are in the works, too. All together, Jekyll is slated to receive a $350 million face lift in coming years, from new hotels to increased recreational facilities, Hooks said.
Construction on the Ocean Oaks hotel is quickly progressing, with foundations and infrastructures solidly being laid. Hopefully, Hooks said, the hotel should be open by next summer.
Contracts for Canopy Bluff, a resort complex, are currently in negations, though no ground breaking date has been set. As well, Jekyll Oceanfront, a Clarion resort, has plans for conversions and renovations, Hooks said.
"Together, all of these projects work as a way to revive Jekyll and bring it back to its glory days," Hooks said. "This is such a unique destination, we have so much to offer. Now, we just have to bring all these pieces together."
Hooks is not limiting his dream for Jekyll's renovation to these four sites. He is looking past the obvious, and gazing into the past.
The historic district of the island has long been neglected - to the tune of $30 million - despite its stellar appeal to would-be tourists, Hooks said.
"I'm serious about the historic district," he said, strolling between the cottages that dot the grassy area. "The homes and cottages here need a lot of work, from new roofs and bike path extensions, to maintenance of buildings and basic restorations. Historical tourism is a big draw for a lot of people. We have a great opportunity on Jekyll to have both this historic area and a beach. Not many places can make such a claim. We need to certainly focus more on that."
To better highlight the district, Hooks is looking to increase funding to it, rework touring schedules to make access more flexible, and add more interactive exhibits in an effort to "make history come alive, so you can see and feel it," Hooks said.
Hooks, too, is looking to his personal history to revamp the island. During one of his driving tours of the island, Hooks took a long, hard look at the island recycling center.
Essentially, the center is a large receptacle with a sign for plastic, newspapers and cardboard, all to be dumped in the same bin. A few containers sit beside the larger bin, meant for aluminum cans.
After seeing this site, he immediately knew that much needed to be done in the way of improvements.
So Hooks took a field trip, back to his home town of Metter, where according to the town's slogan, "Everything is better." There, he met with officials and discussed their recycling center, bringing that city's ideas back to the coast.
"Metter is a comparable size to Jekyll, and I thought their way of recycling would be appropriate for our needs," Hooks said. "They had some really innovate, modern ideas and I was very excited about what we found. We're setting to work to recreate some of the elements they had working in their center."
Already, the site looks better. Fresh landscaping and mulch have been laid, and new recycling bins and signs for sorting have been ordered. Ideally, Hooks said, the center will look less like a landfill, and more like a park.
"Copying is really a sincere sign of flattery," Hooks said. "I mean, we don't need to reinvent the wheel. We can build on what others have done."
In most of his theories for Jekyll, Hooks undertakes this same philosophy. No, he admits, he is not attempting to reinvent the wheel or Jekyll. He merely wants improvements, which he does not restrict to grandiose-scale projects and developments.
Little things, Hooks said, are just as important, if not more so, than the major overhauls. Take, for instance, how Hooks called for the public works department to introduce jasmine vines to all the aluminum fences on the island. Or how he ordered new signs for varying spots throughout the island. These details give the island a more modern, polished appeal, he said.
Beyond improving aesthetics, Hooks is improving communication with island guests and residents. Like those new signs he has ordered. They are also in an effort to clarify regulations and rules on the island, such as sand dune guidelines and camping restrictions.
"If you don't tell people, you can't expect them to know the rules," Hooks said.
He, too, has instituted town hall meetings for Jekyll, a chance for island residents to give Hooks their feedback, offer him new ideas and suggest changes for the future. So far, Hooks said, the community has supported this forum, with about 135 people turning out for the first session last month.
All of these ideas - be it renovations with Linger Longer or creating new signage for the beach access parking lot - go back to maintaining a "wow factor," an ideal deeply rooted in Hooks' personality.
"Someone (else) and I can do the same thing, using the same methods and tactics. But I want to do it a little bit differently, with a little more embellishment and spread more enthusiasm about the project," Hooks explained, referring to his wow factor persona.
"I want to think things through, come up with new ways, better ways, to change the overall outcome. That's the way I measure everything -- is it better for what I did? Either way, I want a critique."
True, Hooks lives and breathes Jekyll Island. His days are filled with the ins and outs of Jekyll present. And when he sleeps, his dreams are filled with the island's future.
Why? Because, he said, he is committed to making sure Jekyll holds true to its character and beauty, all the while regaining its lost sense of vibrant energy.
"People love Jekyll. I love Jekyll. My favorite colors are green and blue, depending on the day. So I guess that makes Jekyll my perfect place."
Just add a splash of purple.
How he sees it
Some of Jones Hooks goals for Jekyll Island are to:
--Regain and increase convention center business from Georgia-based associations that have abandoned the island.
--Revamp the retail sector.
--Continue renovations and maintenance in the historic district, increase the number of interactive exhibits and create a more flexible touring schedule.
--Update and increase usage of golf courses.
--Modernize the recycling center.
--Increase communication with residents, guests and employees
--Update details, such as signs, for a more streamlined and polished appeal
--Increase partnerships with island and area agencies and businesses, such as the University of Georgia and the Jekyll Island 4-H Center.
*Increase ecotoursim opportunities, such as birding, biking and kayaking.