Mike Johnson named
Chamber’s Citizen of the Year

2019 Citizen of the Year

Mike Johnson, owner of M&M Equipment and the Chair of the Barton Community College Board of Trustees, has been named the 2020 Great Bend Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.

Mike brings an unmatched level of dedication, grit and focus to every endeavor in which he engages, and perhaps his hobby illustrates this best: He competes on his bicycle in the heat of the summer on hilly gravel roads for 200 miles in a race called the Dirty Kanza. He’s done that race four times and he’s signed up for his fifth this May. Despite having battled intense weather, sickness and other challenging conditions, he always grinds it out to the finish line, earning the nickname “Machine Mike” from his cycling friends.

Those who have worked with Mike on anything from business ventures to volunteer projects know that’s just how he operates; there are no compromises and he doesn’t give up, which is likely why he usually ends up in leadership positions wherever he gets involved.

“No matter his interests, he dives in, and in no time is in a leading role,” said his wife of 37 years, Linda Johnson. “When the boys were young and playing sports, he would quickly begin coaching, and served as president of two baseball leagues.”

From youth sports to legislative committees in Topeka, the breadth and depth of Mike’s history of volunteerism is beyond the scope of what this article has room to cover. Some notable points include heavy involvement with the 3I show, including three years as chair, organizing a 14-year-old state baseball tournament membership on the Chamber Board of Directors, serving on the Barton Community College Cougar Booster Club – earning Booster of the Year in 1999, serving nine years on the Community Theatre Board, moderating local Chamber of Commerce Legislative Coffees for 25 years, radio announcing for the Barton Cougars, currently serving on the Great Bend – Better than Great Steering Committee and so much more.

It sounds like a lot, but despite the quantity, the quality never falters. Somehow he manages it all.

“Mike is the most organized and methodical person you’ll ever meet,” Linda said. “Mike is very humble, hard-working, determined – he never quits what he starts, and is extremely ambitious, creative, loving and kind.”

Despite his many commitments, Linda said, Mike always kept his family first attending all the events and activities in which their boys, Chad and Kyle, now 34 and 32 respectively, were involved in while growing up.

Chair of Barton Community College Board of Trustees

Arguably his most engaging and demanding volunteer role is also his longest-held as a member of the Barton Community College Board of Trustees, for which he serves as chair. His dedication and talent for leadership is underscored by the Citizen of the Year Award, but he has been noticed in the higher education realm as well. Johnson was recognized in 2017 with the Western Regional Trustee Leadership Award by a national organization, the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT). Johnson was nominated by his fellow Barton Community College Trustees, and contended with nominees from 10 other states and a large portion of Canada to receive the Western Region honor. As the nomination describes, Johnson “embodies the spirit of an engaged and motivated board member, with 21 years of raising the bar for what it means to be a Trustee.”

That dedication extends beyond Barton, as he has served in numerous leadership capacities for the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees, leading peers from the other 18 community colleges across the state.

“Mike is the real deal, giving of his time and talents without hesitation whenever a need arises,” the board wrote to the ACCT nomination committee. “Seeing the time he takes out of his work and personal life to devote to Barton, traveling the three hours one-way to Topeka for routine committee meetings or impromptu visits with legislators, it’s apparent this college holds a special place in his heart and to him this work of advancing accessible education is obviously a worthy cause.”

Mike said, after receiving the ACCT award, the college is a tremendous asset to the community and an obvious place to direct his time and energy as a trustee.

“It’s an asset not only in educating students,” he said. “Through economic development, workforce training, return on investment in the service area and dollars that come in through the college, it’s a vital component of a prosperous and well-rounded community.”

Citizen of the Year Criteria

The “Citizen of the Year” award is presented by the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce to recognize an individual for their volunteer service. The winner must be creating a meaningful impact as a role model for others, and be seen as a leader who has helped pave the way in their workplace and in the community.

Previous Citizen of the Year Recipients

2018  Barry Bowers

2017  Mark Mingenback

2016  Dan Bonine

2015  Jim Johnson

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