Key takeaways from Chairwoman Hendrickson’s 2022 State of the County Address:
After her first full year in office, Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Hendrickson on Thursday addressed residents and businesspeople during her second State of the County address.
“In Gwinnett, our kaleidoscope is the lens through which we view progress,” Hendrickson said. “The kaleidoscope represents Gwinnett County as we vibrantly connect the unique people, place and promise of our community.”
Hendrickson remarked on Gwinnett’s people, describing them as our greatest asset. The 2020 Census revealed the county’s population is close to a million people, or about 9 percent of Georgia’s total population — and that 26 percent of all Gwinnettians came from other countries.
Equity Action Plan
“Last year, we took the first steps toward creating an equity action plan to help us bring our people to the forefront,” she said. “The plan will analyze our current policies and practices and chart a path forward to ensure we center equity in County government operations. It is our desire to ensure that no family or community is left behind.”
Communications and Feedback
The Board of Commissioners values communication and feedback, so last year they created a communications department to expand County resources and reach people where they are.
“Through effective communication and in person outreach, we will build bridges between county staff and the people of Gwinnett, inviting them to seek additional resources when needed,” Hendrickson said.
Services for Most Vulnerable Populations
One bridge has been built with education. Through partnerships with the Gwinnett County Public Schools, leaders have invested in early childhood education programs that offer enriching courses for newborns, toddlers and children up to age 8. The Building Brains Anywhere program focuses on literacy, STEAM and nature. B2 Anywhere also provides suggestions for caregivers to help children thrive.
From newborns to seniors, Chairwoman Hendrickson noted that our population over the age of 60 has nearly doubled since the turn of the century, meaning that providing adequate resources to support our seniors and their caregivers will have to be a priority.
“We offer seniors opportunities to stay healthy, active and social with our senior programming. And we’re helping people age in place with in-home caregiving and services, like home-delivered meals and transportation,” added Hendrickson.
County response to COVID-19
“Our seniors are just one segment of our population that's been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and it’s up to us to protect our whole community,” she said. “So, when faced with the pandemic, we prioritized our people and the things they value most — their health, safety, homes, and livelihoods.”
To that end, the County partnered with the Gwinnett County Health Department in early 2021 to open a mass vaccination site at Gwinnett Place Mall and then in June teamed up with Piedmont Eastside to enhance vaccine access for residents in the southern part of the county.
“To date, more than 1.3 million doses of vaccine have been administered in our county. About 63 percent of residents have received at least one dose and 58 percent are fully vaccinated,” Hendrickson noted. “While we’re outpacing the state, our vaccination rate lags behind the national average. And that puts our entire community — even the fully vaccinated — at risk.”
Gwinnett County also created programs to help maintain our sense of place and keep people in their homes, despite hardships related to the pandemic.
“Last spring, our successful rental assistance program evolved into Project RESET 2.0, so far providing $46 million in rent and utility assistance to more than 4,800 households using federal funds,” says Gwinnett's Chairwoman, Nicole Hendrickson.
“Our work to continually improve services and quality of life is an example of the
Gwinnett Standard. It showcases our promise — to support our vibrantly connected community by delivering superior services,” Hendrickson said.
In keeping with that standard, the Gwinnett Entrepreneur Center opened earlier this year. It’s a place where budding entrepreneurs receive mentoring and connections to valuable resources.
A partnership between the County and Georgia Gwinnett College, the center offers coworking and office space, classes, workshops, business coaching and peer learning. The inaugural group is already hard at work.
“We’re hopeful that by helping new businesses flourish, they will create jobs, boost revitalization, broaden the tax base, and mentor other new businesses,” Hendrickson noted.
Through the Kaleidoscope
“Through the kaleidoscope, our dynamic people and place will continue to evolve, bringing everchanging possibilities… and through it all, we're counting on community leaders like you to help us uplift our vibrant people and keep Gwinnett the preferred community where everyone thrives.”
Hendrickson presented three Standard Bearer Awards during her speech, each representing an aspect of Gwinnett’s kaleidoscope.
Chef Hank Reid with Lettum Eat was honored in the People category for providing high-quality meals to people facing food insecurity. Chef Hank became a partner with the County, donating healthy meals during drive-up food distribution events.
The Place award went to Plaza las Americas for embracing Gwinnett’s unique spirit and providing an inclusive environment. The community center served as a host site for the County’s year-end vaccine events and was chosen by Comcast as a home for its Internet Essentials program and Lift Zone to boost digital literacy and academic achievement.
The Gwinnett County Grants Division was recognized with the Promise award for their work to use federal pandemic-relief funding efficiently and effectively. Funds were used for PPE to protect first responders, support for struggling businesses, emergency rental and utility assistance, and gift cards for vaccine incentives.
“Facing new and familiar challenges, these groups made outstanding efforts to support our community,” Hendrickson said as she introduced the winners. “They are examples of the Gwinnett Standard — and always strive to do better for those around them.”