Community involvement earns state recognition

Four local residents were recognized with a rare award for decades of combined experience with local boards and nonprofits that serve the community.

Johnson County residents Steve Bechman, Jeff Goben, Tom Thompson and Jennifer Tennell were each presented with the governor’s Distinguished Hoosier Award at a ceremony in December. The award is given out by the governor to residents for their accomplishments and contributions to their communities.

Former State Rep. John Price nominated the four Johnson County residents for the award.

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Price cited the numerous ways each had become involved in the Johnson County community, ranging from their work on local government boards to service with nonprofits.

“It is time they take away from their families,” he said. “They have a true servant’s heart in giving and volunteering.”

Family and friends helped orchestrate the ceremony as a surprise to the four residents. When Bechman arrived, he believed he was there to celebrate his longtime friend and former banking colleague Goben, who was receiving an award. Goben thought it was Bechman’s evening to be acknowledged, they said.

Bechman, the market president at Horizon Bank in Franklin, said his volunteering with organizations, such as the Johnson Memorial Health Foundation and the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, was about making his community a better place. After 40 years in the local banking industry, Bechman now works with the children and grandchildren of customers he met at the beginning of his career.

“If we can do good things for the community through these organizations, it will make the community a better place to live and work,” he said.

“Everyone needs to get involved to some kind of degree.”

Goben, a retired banker who helped Bechman found Heartland Community Bank, said he has found giving to be a greater joy than receiving.

“I am extremely honored,” he said. “Many people have done much more than I have, and they aren’t being recognized.”

Narrowing the nominations down to four was challenging, Price said.

“It’s tough, because there were so many people that were deserving,” he said.

For Thompson, the vice president and general manager of Fletcher Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Franklin, serving his community as a member of the Johnson Memorial Hospital Foundation Board and through organizations, such as the Rotary Club, were part of his goal to make a difference in his community.

“I just think that is what a person ought to do if they have the ability to do it,” Thompson said.

Tennell, the executive director of the Johnson Memorial Hospital Foundation, moved to working for a nonprofit after being in the banking field for 15 years. She is also on the Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County board of directors and is a member of the Rotary Club. She is John Price’s daughter, but Price said that other people had suggested she be nominated for the award, and that he did not make the final decision on who should be honored.

“It was a complete surprise,” she said about the award. “I don’t do any of it for the recognition, but I appreciate it.

“Johnson County has a huge place in my heart.”

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2702.