District 5: Burleson County
Ex-officio member of the four Board committees – Audit & Finance, Member & Employee Services, Energy Services and Legal & Governance.
Bluebonnet Chairman Ben Flencher belongs to a community banking legacy initiated by his father, who worked at Somerville's Citizens State Bank for 60 years. Ervin Flencher Sr. began his financial career as a janitor and bought stock in the company.
Eventually, Ervin rose to president and CEO. His namesake, Ben, who would go to the bank every day after school as a child to roll coins and file checks, officially began working for the bank in 8th grade. "All I ever knew was banking," he said. "I guess there never really was any doubt that this is what I was going to do."
Ben continued to work at the bank through college. He married his high school sweetheart - Betsy Neinast - and by the time he graduated from Texas A&M University in 1974, with a degree in finance, the small bank had a balance sheet of $7 million. He became bank president in 1981, and increased the business's footprint in the right areas.
"We had a good run in part because we're a relationship bank, and we don't try to be something we're not," Ben said. "We cater to our customers and try to meet all their banking needs. When we grow, we try to make it a better place for the local community."
Through the bank, Ben enjoys giving back to the community almost as much as he takes pleasure in spoiling his seven grandchildren or spending time hunting, fishing and all things sports related. And the family banking tradition continues with two of his four sons, who are also in the banking industry.
Another son works in commercial real estate and the other is a dirt contractor. The bank now has more than $950 million in assets and operates seven branches in the Brazos Valley. Ben carefully watches the region's financial climate and economic outlook, in part because of his role at the bank and also as president of the Burleson County Economic Development Council, which works to enhance and expand the local economy. Ben says Texas continues to thrive, and people want to live in this region because of the climate and opportunities for jobs.
Overall, Ben enjoys working with organizations involved in solid business practices and substantial growth, which is why he began serving as a cooperative director in 1987. He was elected vice chairman from 1993 to 2001 and 2007 to 2014. Ben was elected chairman in 2014.
"Bluebonnet has always had a great reputation of friendly people, dependable service and fair rates, and the more I learned about the co-op, the more I wanted to know," he said. "An added benefit was working with quality people and learning from Bluebonnet about how to better run our banking business."
Professionally, Ben knows you must seek growth with due diligence.
"There are still opportunities for community banks, but we have to remain friendly, keep up with technology and grow in the right way for our staff and communities," he said. "The same challenges exist for the co-op."
Developments around the Texas 130 toll road and in pockets of changing, urban demographics force the co-op to examine growth and its impact on all members.
"We have to set goals and stay true to our core values, but if you're not diverse enough and don't offer the right kinds of technology, you can't serve all ends of the spectrum," Ben said. "The two extremes must meet in the middle. You can't be everything to everybody, but you must provide service to meet your consumers' and members' wants."
Having watched the parallel successes of the bank and the co-op, Ben has benefitted from observing past and current managers run the organizations.
"You meet good people in co-ops," he said. "We're making a difference, and in both businesses, we're bringing in industries to benefit residential customers. We have some unique and exciting opportunities ahead."