A people person

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By Laura Hagan

If you ask Dennis Johnson how it feels to be named the Oldham Countian of the Year, he’ll say he’s not worthy. His friends, family and colleagues think differently.

To say Johnson was surprised with the honor would be an understatement, he said, after he received the honor during the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly dinner Tuesday.

Co-workers say Johnson admits to talking a lot, but when he received the award, Johnson told the crowd for the “first time in my life I don’t know what to say.” 

He received the award on the 12th anniversary of the day he became administrator of Baptist Hospital Northeast in La Grange. 

Johnson thanked his fellow chamber members and friends for making Oldham County a great place for his family. In fact, earlier in the evening when he accepted an award Baptist Hospital Northeast earned for community service, he praised the community he serves.

“Oldham County is a great place to live, to work, to play and to do community,” he said. “I think Oldham County does community better than anywhere.”

In his acceptance of the award, he thanked his wife for allowing him to spend so much time “at late meetings, missing birthday parties,” and thanked the 450 employees at BHNE.

“I will accept this only on behalf of all those across the county who make this a wonderful place to live,” he said.

A video with words from his family and his friends was shown after the awards ceremony and those who spoke about Johnson praised his leadership, his love for his community and his willingness to serve local organizations from Boy Scouts to the Oldham County Economic Development Authority. 

Bill Ellis, pastor at Crestwood Baptist Church – where Johnson and his family worship – said BHNE is not a little hospital in La Grange, it’s part of a bigger system.

“In that bigger system, it’s seen as a leader,” he said, “and much of that is because of Dennis’ leadership.”

Co-workers said Johnson would be the first to say the hospital’s success has nothing to do with his leadership; the hospital is doing well because of the people who work in the hospital.

Ellis said he has never heard Johnson speak highly of himself, but always speaks highly of others.

“What kind of world would we have if there was more of that?” Ellis said. “Don’t talk about yourself but lift others up.”

Dr. Josh Honaker, a pediatrician who credits Johnson for setting him up for success to create Oldham County Pediatrics, said Johnson believes in building community relationships with the hospital and supporting different activities. 

“He always wants the hospital to be there to help schools, advocacy groups,” he said. “He really believes that’s the mission of the 


Johnson’s wife, Tracy, said what she loved about him when they first met was how interested he was in people.

“He just loved people, he was interested in all they did and what they had to say,” she said. “I think that’s still to this day an important part of who he is.”

Gary Hardy said Johnson is sincere. 

“I think he operates from the heart and not from the brain, obviously that’s why he’s in healthcare,” Hardy said. “I’m very proud of what he’s accomplished since he’s been in Oldham County.”

Friend Joe McWilliams, who introduced Johnson as the winner, said Johnson has a desire to help people and is “obviously in a helping profession.” With other organizations he’s been in – Red Cross, United Way, Junior Achievement, Boy Scouts of America – McWilliams said, all those roles are helping roles.

Tracy said with all the activities her husband’s involved in and his love for the community, all he does is try to further the county and make it a better place to live.

Robert Arvin, retired superintendent and BHNE board member said he doubts that this much progress would have been made without Johnson.

“I think his desire for that facility to be of service to this community has made a difference,” he said. “That might not have happened without his leadership.”

Sue Stout Tamme, president of Baptist Hospital East, said she has worked with Johnson since 1990 and is proud to have watched him go from brand-new in the hospital to a leader.

“It’s so much easier to make healthcare better in the community working with someone like Dennis,” she said.

Arvin said he hopes he doesn’t hear that Johnson has moved up in the organization or is moving away from Oldham County. 

“I’m sure you will, but I’m selfish,” Arvin said. “I want you here in Oldham County, because you’re such a vital part of the community.”

Barry Stoess, who serves on OCEDA and the BHNE board with Johnson, said Johnson would make an excellent coach – as he spends his life giving 


“He’s not satisfied with the status quo, he always takes a look at the big picture to see how things could be better,” Stoess said.

His children also spoke in the video, saying their dad was “great, he likes to camp, he’s really goofy and he makes really weird faces.” His daughter thanked him for being a great dad.

Dr. John Simmons of  Spartanburg, S.C. came to the ceremony to show his appreciation and love for Johnson. Simmons said for eight years he has been visiting BHNE as a consultant, but in that time, his relationship with Johnson has grown beyond friendship.

“You’ve got something really special in Oldham County, Baptist Hospital Northeast and Dennis Johnson,” Simmons said.

To say Johnson is passionate about healthcare, McWilliams said, is an understatement. 

“He has a drive for making Oldham County a better place to live,” he said. “He’s done a lot, he does a lot, and he will continue to do a lot.”

Johnson said he doesn’t think he should be considered Oldham Countian of the Year with all the others who’ve come before him, he just thinks Oldham County is a great place – a wonderful place, he said, to live and raise his family.

“This is the best place I know to do community,” he said.


Chamber honors top businesses 

The Oldham County Chamber of Commerce honored the recipients of the 2009 Oldham County Top Achievers awards Tuesday.

Turn Key Concepts earned the award for Small Business of the Year, and Blooms received an honorable mention. 

360 Degree Chiropractic earned the award for Woman-Owned Business of the Year, and Cassis Dermatology received an honorable mention. 

Baptist Hospital Northeast received the Community Service Award for the third-straight year. 

Cruise One received the award for Home-Based Business of the Year.

Rocketman Inc. received the award for Large Business of the Year, and Norton Brownsboro Hospital received an honorable mention. 


E-mail us about this story at: lhagan@oldhamera.com