Working out of Atlanta and Washington, D.C., Hawkins began his journey through the thick of presidential primary season as volunteer coordinator for Gingrich before moving to D.C. as the action ramped up and he became website administrator.
As website administrator, Hawkins was a one-man team responsible for the campaign's Internet presence -- email, social media, website updates and online advertising.
Working around the clock every day of the week, the campaign team received time off at Christmas, during which they worked from home. The hours were long and the challenges only mounted as crucial primaries and debates neared. For a week leading up to Gingrich's big win in South Carolina, Hawkins said, "anything that could go wrong, did." Occupying the "war room," campaign staffers and volunteers left only to sleep working from 7 a.m. to 1 or 2 in the morning.
Despite the difficulties, Hawkins remembers much of the trail fondly, including the opportunity to bring Gingrich for a public engagement in Cartersville last August. Other highlights were several instances in which Hawkins personally accompanied Newt and Callista Gingrich to events, on some occasions being the only staff member present.
Today, Hawkins is working in Texas for a private advertising and media agency but will never forget his first experience as a ranking staff member of a national presidential campaign.
Name: Jacob Hawkins
Occupation: Digital Strategist and Account Executive
Education: Georgia College & State University (Senior) Family: Parents, Steve and Carilyn Hawkins; siblings, Coy and Sarah Clark, Christine Hawkins
City of Residence: Temporarily Austin, Texas
What drew you to politics?
A. In high school, Ken Foster always called me a politician. Then I volunteered on Paul Battles' 2008 run for State Representative and Shep Helton's run in 2009 and I became hooked.
How did you land a role in Gingrich's national campaign?
A. I was put in touch with the campaign by someone I worked closely with at the state Capitol. But that person quit the campaign, along with most of the other staff, about two weeks later (June). By luck, I got in touch with Jackie Cushman, Newt's daughter, about a week after the staff left.
When I arrived at the national headquarters in Atlanta, I realized that I was the only volunteer in a completely empty office. Jackie handed me $500 and asked me to decorate the office because Newt's birthday was Wednesday and he and the press would be there. I hung pictures, got a caterer, rented drapes and did a lot of other things I never thought I would do.
The birthday party was a hit, and afterwards, I sat down with Newt and he offered me the job. I told him that I was nervous about missing a semester of school. He literally said, "I delayed my senior year in college to work on a congressional campaign. You can delay yours to work on a presidential." And he got up and walked out. He was right, and I took the job.
What was your favorite part of the job?
A. Being involved in the strategy for certain things the campaign did. It's fun to look back at what I had a hand in.
What are the greatest lessons you learned from the experience?
A. Keep good relationships with everyone. Loyalty and integrity is of utmost importance. I'm working with several of the people I met through the campaign on other campaigns now.
What surprised you most about life on the campaign trail?
A. That despite all of the cool things you can do with social media, websites and videos, it still all comes down to basic voter contact -- phone calls, knocking on doors and direct mail.
What are your future career plans?
A. My mother would like for me to answer that I plan on finishing school. I foresee myself in some combination of politics and business.
What is the best advice you have received?
A. Always give your best -- 110 percent. My grandfather, Warren Hawkins, has told me that every time I have seen him since I was young.
Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
A. Watching Coach Chester's Canes in the playoffs at Richard Bell Field. I'm sorry I missed them this year.
What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
A. Driven, courageous, loyal.
Do you see yourself ever running for office?
A. I doubt it.