In celebration of Women’s History Month, North Gwinnett Voice staff member Denise Rumbaugh reached out to women whose accomplishments have been influential and impactful in several areas, including education, politics, media and business. She asked each woman about other women throughout history they admire, the most influential women in their own lives, advice they would share with women and girls on achieving their own goals and dreams and the importance of celebrating women’s history. The NGV has compiled their responses in celebration of Women’s History Month and in honor of these incredible women leaving their marks.
Nicole Love Hendrickson was elected chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners in 2020, making her the first African American to hold this position in Georgia’s most diverse and second-most populous county. As commission chair, she leads the board in setting the direction and formulating policies for county government, overseeing the creation and adoption of the county’s more than $2 billion budget and ensuring Gwinnett’s services reach all of its nearly 1 million residents with the standard and quality they have come to expect.
Denise Rumbaugh: Is there any particular woman or are there women in history you admire? What do you admire about her or them?
Nicole Love Hendrickson: From a personal perspective, the women who surrounded me in my formative years are the ones who I admire most. From my grandmother — whose deep roots in faith have taught me to stay grounded — to my mother who taught me how to remain undeterred when adversity rears its head. My mother is the true personification of “When life gives you lemons … ” Her strength in the face of pressure is why she’s a rare diamond to me and a shining light to me and my siblings. As a single mother, she raised four children — two sets of twins. My twin sister and I are identical, our younger brothers are fraternal. Being a parent already presents its own unique set of challenges, being a single parent comes with an entirely different set of rules.
Growing up in Rhode Island, my family didn’t have a lot of material things, but we had each other. The women in our lives taught us to always value the people around us first and foremost. And those instilled values have been guiding principles in how I live and lead our County Government.
DR: Who has been the most influential woman in your life and why?
NLH: Fortunately, I have far too many to name one. Throughout my professional journey I’ve been fortunate to learn from and lean on other strong women — many I consider colleagues as well as friends. My predecessor, former Chairman Charlotte Nash, entrusted me to spearhead the County’s first ever Community Outreach Program. She was an inspiring mentor then and still is now.
I’ve also drawn inspiration from the first female commission chair Lillian Webb. Chairman Webb broke barriers while Gwinnett experienced exponential growth in the 1980s. I’m also grateful to have served alongside and still call former District 4 Commissioner Marlene Fosque my friend. As the first Black woman to serve on the Board of Commissioners, Marlene remains an influential fixture in Gwinnett’s history and an influential woman in my hall of fame for powerhouse women.
I’d also be remiss not to mention women trailblazers like Beauty Baldwin, the state’s first Black Superintendent. She and other women elected officials, civil servants, business and nonprofit leaders have broken and continue to break down barriers for other women who will follow in their footsteps. The influential women I know not only accomplish great things for themselves, but they also serve with intention to make change and improve life for all.
DR: What advice would you share with women and girls on working to achieve their goals and dreams?
NLH: As women, we often take on the responsibility of trying to handle it all. Always nurturing and supporting others and not prioritizing our personal well-being. However, self-care is pivotal to ensuring everyone we care for is also doing well. I’d like to remind women — and young girls who will eventually become women — that you are important too. There will be times when it’s okay, not to be okay. When that happens, find a quiet space or something you enjoy focusing on and prioritize you. Ultimately, keeping this mindset will permit you to reset then make those dreams and ambitions your reality.
DR: What do you think is the importance of celebrating women’s history?
NLH: Women’s History Month is more than a placeholder in any given year. It’s a movement and a reminder of the bravery and fearless aptitude of women — regardless of their backgrounds — to push back against discriminatory ideals, societal norms and skepticism.
I stand on the shoulders of remarkable women who fiercely forged a path through uncharted territory to make way for women like me.