Jaiden Lee Interviews Gaynell Hendricks

Jaiden Lee Interviews Gaynell Hendricks

For Gaynell Hendricks, Community is the “bread and butter” of Life.

By Jaiden Lee

Community service is at the center of everything that Gaynell Hendricks does. The Birmingham, Alabama native and resident serves as tax assessor for Jefferson County and is the founder of Wee Care Academy daycare centers. Her work allows her to serve her community and be a role model for the people who live in it. 

Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Hendricks spent her early college years at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, Tennessee, where she studied Sociology. She then went on to get her MBA (Masters of Business Administration) from Rutgers University in New Jersey.

 After her time in graduate school, Hendricks knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur and start her own business. This led her to starting her own daycare center – Wee Care Academy – during the 1980’s. Though she was raised in Birmingham, she was new to the city’s business community. So her early years as an entrepreneur were tough, but gradually her business started to become more well known throughout the Birmingham community. The more she got involved in the business ecosystem the more she began to look into other ways to serve her community as an elected official.

Hendricks had previous experience with running a campaign as her husband Ellias Hendricks had run for an office and she worked on his campaign. Soon there was a position available for the state house, and she ran for that position, but she didn’t win the seat.   If at first you don’t succeed, try again. A few years later she ran for tax assessor for the county, and was successful with that campaign. She became the first woman, and woman of color, to ever be elected for that position. She believes that her working in the community and its people before her campaign helped her with that election. 

The same sense of community that urged Hendricks to run for office also inspires her work as an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur she thinks it’s important to use that sense of community to be an advocate for not only yourself but many others around you as well.. She believes that serving our community is the only way to make change in how we live. “Community is the bread and butter of my life,” she said. “I can’t imagine not doing what I’m doing and serving my community.”

Some advice she would have for future entrepreneurs is to have courage and confidence, and know you can’t depend on anyone for your business. Hendricks said it is mainly about stepping out and being confident enough to try to do things on your own. 

Hendricks loves that her role as tax assessor allows her to mentor people. She believes her job can help encourage others to strive for better than what she accomplished and to always go for more. Hendricks also believes that another great accomplishment would be her being able to reach out to and help so many people. She believes that doing so was one of the most important things in her life. 

As a woman of color herself Hendricks understands how important representation is for these types of jobs. For any young girls of color Hendricks would like to say believe in yourself, and don’t be afraid to be involved in your community. She also said setting goals that you can work towards is also something that would be very helpful and be determined to make those goals a reality. 

“Just remember that you can do anything that you want to do and be anything that you want to be,” she said.

Hendricks has been able to accomplish many things in her life and career but what she is most proud of is her loving family. She is most grateful for her husband and her three children who are very successful in their own right, which she is extremely proud of. She is especially proud of the people who they have become. As women, and especially African-American women, we have to work so much harder to accomplish something, Hendricks said. She added that having your family to back you up will be the most important thing support wise you can get.

When she’s not working as an assessor, Hendricks loves to spend her free time cooking. She has many fond memories with her family in the kitchen and has so many recipes that she loves to make. Cooking for her is something like an escape and it helps her relax. She also enjoys going out to concerts as music is a big part of her. Another activity she does in her free time is collecting art and viewing art. Hendricks is a huge fan of art of all mediums, whether it’s singing, dance, or visual art. 

As for the future, Hendricks plans to run for tax assessor once again for another three-year term. It will take a lot of people, work, and money, but she believes it will all be worth it. She plans to win her campaign and to keep helping the people in her community in that way. 

Gaynell Hendricks has no regrets about anything in her life. She has a loving family and a wonderful job that she loves so much.  She states that “I am fulfilled and satisfied with the work that I’ve done, and I feel as though I’ve made a difference.” Hendricks has already accomplished so much and there is even more to come in the future.