Niederman is newest Chief of the Flint Springs Tribe

Jeremy Nix (left) the 2018 Chief of the Flint Springs Tribe, announced Pathfinder Services President John Niederman as the 2019 chief at the 51st annual chief's breakfast on Thursday morning at the Historic Forks of the Wabash.
Jeremy Nix (left) the 2018 Chief of the Flint Springs Tribe, announced Pathfinder Services President John Niederman as the 2019 chief at the 51st annual chief's breakfast on Thursday morning at the Historic Forks of the Wabash. Photo by Scott Trauner.

John Niederman was anything but visionary when he was rendered nearly speechless by being named the 51st winner of the Chief of the Flint Springs Tribe on Thursday morning at the annual chief’s breakfast at the Historic Forks of the Wabash.

Called a visionary force by the past chiefs in the presentation leading up to his announcement as the 2019 chief, Niederman admitted he didn’t see the honor coming.

 “I was thinking, ‘Wow! No, that’s not me,’” he said, as he listened to the list of achievements read off by 2018 Chief Jeremy Nix. “What an amazing honor this is to be recognized by this amazing community in this way.”

The accolade, presented each year as the official start to Huntington’s Heritage Days Festival, is “arguably is the most prestigious honor in Huntington County,” according to Master of Ceremonies John Nelson. “It recognizes an individual who has bettered the community through philanthropy and volunteerism, as judged by past chiefs.”

This year, the past chiefs chose Niederman, who is the president of Pathfinder Services Inc., describing him as a “positive, visionary force in this community. … You have received multiple leadership and excellence awards, including a Distinguished Hoosier Award, and even have a statewide award named after you.”

Although Niederman is not a Hoosier native, he has worked for more than 30 years for the improvement of the Huntington community, with a special focus on those who need the most assistance, Nix said.

Those activities include involvement with the Huntington County Community Foundation, Hometown improvement, Harmony Initiative Task Force, Lifelong Learning of Huntington County, Huntington County United Economic Development, Huntington County Literacy Coalition, United Way, Huntington County Chamber of Commerce as well as a number of national and statewide boards, committees and councils.

“Your passion and leadership will certainly leave a profound mark on our community,” Nix added.

Following a standing ovation, Niederman accepted the award with emotion in his voice, struggling to find the right words to respond.

“Judy and I got married, and that was a great day. And then I got four children, and that was pretty amazing. This is up there,” he said. “So many of you in this room have been my mentors and assisted in so many ways, to my family and myself, to be part of this community and able to just be here and be supportive … Thank you for everything. As we all know, none of us are able to do anything without the support of others and this community is an amazing community.”

As his first official act as a chief of the Flint Springs Tribe, Niederman then followed tradition and declared the 56th Annual Huntington Heritage Days Festival officially open.

Also honored during the program were two chiefs who died during the past year, Homer Hiner and Gene Snowden. Two white carnations signified their missing presence at the ceremony.

“These were two men that did such a tremendous service to Huntington County and they touched so many lives in so many different ways,” Nelson said. “It was always an honor to just talk to them, listen to their thoughts and their ideas.”

Nix also announced the second recipient of the Chiefs’ Legacy Fund, the Keystone Club of the Parkview Huntington Boys & Girls Club. The club is the leadership program for high school members, focusing on academic success, community service, career preparation and teen outreach. Among activities this year, the Keystone Club:

• Implemented a mentoring program for the middle school-aged members that included monthly teambuilding activities.

• Planned and implemented a 21st Century Scholars Night to help middle school students and their parents enroll in the program that provides free tuition to state schools for eligible families.

• Planned a “Treat Ya Self Night” to help members discover ways to deal with stress and anxiety.

Outside the Boys & Girls Club, Keystone members put in more than 1,000 volunteer hours.

Nix said the donation will help several members attend the National Keystone Conference in Florida.

The Chiefs’ Legacy Fund was established in 2018 to provide a gift to a community charitable endeavor.