Retiring Human Resources Director Minnie Lenox served as queen of the First Ever 20th Annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade, an honor she claimed would become a part of her legacy.
"I remember the first parade they had," she said. "And right down here, I stood there and watched it and everything, and I'm like 'Wow, this is something.' And I pretty much watched them every year, but to actually be a part of it, it's something really awesome.
That's a part of (my) legacy. And people look at me (and) say, 'How did you become the queen?' I said, 'You have to live your life daily, and you have to be authentic and impactful.' I said, 'Don't be a phony or whatever, and people will recognize that.'"
As an observer of the parade up until this year, Lenox said one of her favorite things about the event was "the people."
"I'm a people person," she said. "I'm an observer, and I have just stood back and watched the people. They get excited. Kids get excited about it and everything, and I want more and more kids to be a part of it. The experience is the most important part."
Lenox served as queen of the parade alongside retired Circuit Judge John Homer Wright, who served as king of the parade. The two previously worked together from City Hall many years ago, Lenox said.
"I've known him a long time," she said. "So, it's an awesome thing to experience actually being on a platform with him, sharing that with Judge Wright."
Not only will Lenox walk alongside Wright, but also her family and friends, she said.
"My family and friends, they said, 'Can we be in (the parade with you)?' I said, 'Yes!' So, there are gonna be family and close friends that are gonna walk behind me and with me. ... But, I want to shake hands with the kids. I want to take pictures with the kids. I want to let them know, you know, that I'm gonna look for big things outta you."
Lenox will retire from her position as human resources director on June 30 after 18 years, she said. She's worked for the city in other positions, including office manager and trainer, for more than 40 years.
"I'm going to miss the interaction with the employees every day (and) the camaraderie we have in this office and with the administrative staff," she said. "I'm the type of person who shoots straight from the hip. I pull out all the stops, and if I see you going down the road, I'm (gonna) tell you. I'm (gonna) say, 'Now, is that what you're supposed to be doing?'"
Some of her favorite memories of her job include "being selected as the HR director in December of 2003, and then just getting to know the employees and (working) with the staff and (making) a difference," she said. "Hopefully, I've made a difference in the lives of some of the staff over the course of my time."
However, it's not only the employees and staff at the Human Resources Department, but also community members and other city employees who come in looking for help.
"When anybody comes in for an application, we try to make them feel welcome," Lenox said. "You know, we kid with them and things of that nature. We're not the staunch, stern type of employers. We want them to feel that coming to work with the city of Hot Springs is like coming to be with a family."
As a Hot Springs native, Lenox graduated from Hot Springs High School in 1969, as a part of the first integrated class.
"I had gone to Langston prior to that," she said. "And my senior year, we merged with Hot Springs High School. ... Being a part of the class of '69 really helped me to venture out and not be afraid to be an individual, who I am. ... Because some of my time in high school was not a very, very memorable time. For it to be my senior year, it was not one that I had imagined.
"But, I think about history and I think about African Americans, and I think about the stride and all that they made. So, somebody had to pave the way. Sometimes it was hard and it was rough, but being in that setting and all allowed me to see that that was like breaking the ice and going forward."
Today, Lenox's son serves on the board of the Hot Springs School District, one of her grandchildren is an assistant principal at Langston Elementary Leadership Academy and another grandchild of hers is a basketball coach at Hot Springs High School, she said.
"These are things that were never heard of when I was coming up," she said. "But, I see the changes that have happened over the years, and I'm proud of that. I'm proud of that legacy that has gone forward. I know what legacy is now and what it is to leave a legacy."
After high school, Lenox went on to attend Indiana University Bloomington for about a year but ended up coming back to the Natural State to study at Henderson State University. However, she never finished her degree from university, deciding to study electrical engineering at Quapaw Technical Institute, now known as National Park College, instead.
"From early on, I wanted to be an engineer," she said. "My mother passed when I was young. I was about 9 years old when my birth mother passed. And my great-great aunt raised us. I wanted to go to Hampton because I knew that was a place where you could go and, you know. And, she said 'No, I can't let you go there, far away because you have nobody there. We couldn't get to you if we needed to, and I just wouldn't be able to sleep at night, not knowing where you were.'
"So, I was very disheartened because of that. So, now I know God has plans for you. So, it was for me to stay here and go to Quapaw VoTech and take up those classes and all and finish over there at Quapaw VoTech and National Park with an associate degree. And I love it. Now, don't think I haven't still wanted to be an engineer. But, when the picture came out, 'Hidden Figures,' that meant so much to me because I could have been in the midst of that, and I wasn't. But, I saw what those ladies went through. ... So, I said I could see why my aunt didn't want me to go away because they didn't know where I was gonna be or what I was gonna have to endure."
After receiving an associate degree from Quapaw Technical Institute, Lenox was in the computer lab that summer when someone from the Chamber of Commerce reached out to one of her instructors about needing an employee to help with the new computer, she said.
"And I went to the chamber, and I've never left Convention Boulevard since then," she said.
Although she never became an engineer, Lenox said she had no regrets in the direction her career went.
"If I had to do it all over again, maybe (I would) wanna make a few decisions differently, but no, I don't have any regrets."
In all of her different roles, Lenox has also done motivational speaking, something she said she plans to continue doing after her retirement. She also plans to volunteer her time for organizations such as Hot Springs Area Community Foundation.
"Training and motivational speaking, that's my passion," she said. "I have a passion for that. So, I've just evolved into what I am today. I still go around and speak. I still go around and do training and workshops and things of that nature. ... Because I've learned so much over my lifetime, I know some of the pitfalls, and I want to prevent people from having to go down that pathway where there are pitfalls and so they'll be aware and know. I've learned a lot, and I wanna share that with those that are coming behind me.
"We want to make sure that we leave a legacy for the generation to come behind us," she said. "If it's just one little nugget that they can get and take with them, it means so much. ... And that's something money can't buy."