Reprint from South Strand News (March 4, 2016)
Bob Jewell, president and CEO of Brookgreen Gardens, announced he will retire at the end of the year.
Jewell, 68, will celebrate his 12th anniversary as president and CEO in July, “which is amazing,” he said. He had worked for HomePlace of America and Federated Department Stores and took an early retirement. He and his wife, Toni, settled in Wachesaw Plantation.
“I was retired and came over here looking for a part-time job,” he said. “I absolutely love Brookgreen. It’s become part of my soul.”
Now, they want to spend more time with their grandchildren — a fourth is expected in June — in Arizona and California.
“We’ll be out there part of the year,” Jewell said. “Toni is out there quite a bit already.”
Jewell said he plans to stay involved in the Georgetown County community. He is a former member of the county school board and currently serves on several other state and local boards.
“Bob was the right person, in the right place, at the right time for Brookgreen Gardens,” said Dick Rosen, chairman of the board of trustees.
“He brought a much needed business background to the institution but he balanced it with vision and the mission of the gardens. He understands what makes Brookgreen so special to so many people.”
During his 12 years, Jewell said Brookgreen has moved its mission forward in every component: sculpture, horticulture, and the zoo and forest management.
“That has been our primary focus,” he said, “to move that mission forward. Underneath that, you have to have the fundamentals of financial stability. That was something we didn’t have, so in conjunction with moving the strategies forward we have a clean balance sheet and positive cash flow. The financial fundamentals are solid.”
Jewell said Brookgreen enjoys a broader appeal today. The gardens will open a display of LEGO sculpture March 5 that has proven a big draw in other locations.
“We want to make sure people understand that Brookgreen Gardens is here for all people,” he said. “I’m not sure that was the image of it for awhile. We want people to enjoy it. That’s the vision the Huntingtons had — to make it available for people. I’m proud of the staff and the volunteers for all the things we’ve accomplished, because we’ve accomplished a lot.”
Dalton Floyd of Murrells Inlet, a Brookgreen trustee, said Jewell brought business experience to the job.
“He is an excellent manager of people, and we needed that because Brookgreen Gardens is a big business in addition to sculptures and gardens,” Floyd said. “He’s dramatically increased the number of visitors, members and revenues each year. At Nights of a Thousand Candles, people are coming from all over.”
“Bob gave Brookgreen new life, renewed its purpose, and grew its recognition to the stature that it truly deserves.” said George Weich, former vice president for horticulture and conservation. “I was proud to be part of the journey he took us on. It was fun.”
Brookgreen Gardens, a National Historic Landmark, is located south of Myrtle Beach between Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island.