It is my honor and privilege to speak on behalf of the Chamber and VCB staff today. I was hired in 1999 and I thought I had the longest time with Bob as a boss, but I guess Cara Martinez beats me hands down – she first worked for him 32 years ago, when she was right out of High School. Together, Cara and I have been blessed to work with Bob the longest =)

As staff, we all get to see his business side, his military side, his funny side, his serious side, his angry side and his human side – and these are what I want to talk about.

When Bob came to head our Chamber 20 years ago, it was in shambles. He was instrumental in modernizing the office and built the framework for the success our Chamber and Visitors Bureau are enjoying today. Bob designed the programs for our organization and developed the job descriptions for all our positions. His wisdom and foresight have seen us through some very difficult and scary times and we are cautiously optimistic that the economy is finally starting to pick up – the travel industry certainly has. We are seeing record numbers in Transient Occupancy Tax – revenue that goes to the City of Santa Maria’s General Fund.

Bob has ensured our strength and presence in the tourism industry, and our continued visibility is certainly paying off now that people are able to start traveling again – for business and leisure.

One of Bob’s greatest talents is positioning people and organizations for success. I am proud to share that in honor of Bob Hatch and his amazing contributions to our business community and the travel industry – our Visitors Bureau has named our newest annual award, the Bob Hatch Excellence in Hospitality Tourism Award.

Bob’s support and encouragement have been instrumental to all of us – his Chamber staff in each one of our jobs. For our Chamber members and business community at large, he has given you the tools and programs to help grow your business and support your individual success. Therefore, our annual Bob Hatch Excellence in Hospitality Tourism Award will be presented each year at our Tourism Luncheon to a VCB member who has conscientiously used the membership benefits we offer (and that Bob designed), to become successful in his or her job. And Bob has a standing invitation to present his legacy award at our future tourism luncheons.

Bob has treated us like family, which is why we have all stuck around so long! He is wonderfully wise, always encouraging, and eager to help each one of us not only reach our potential, but also reach for the stars in our personal lives. He supports growth in the positions we hold – perhaps me the most.

When I joined the Chamber in 1999, I held the Visitor Services Coordinator which is now held by Terri Paniagua. In 2002, I was promoted to the Group Services Coordinator position, which Jennifer Harrison now holds and in the spring of 2005 I was promoted to the position of VCB which I still currently hold – there’s no place left to go in the VCB!

Some of our favorite Bob-isms:

“This is my place… and THESE are my people!” His hallway announcement on most mornings.

My personal favorite: “Never argue with a crazy person… because soon they won’t be able to tell you apart.” – So. True.

Another famous quote “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you’re not worried about who will get the credit.” Bob absolutely embodies that sentiment.

I will end here by thanking Bob and honoring him today for all that he’s done for us, all that he is and all that he represents. Thank you for always being there to support us and for the smiles, hugs and kind words, not to mention the PINK BOX in the morning (donuts!), oftentimes when we’ve needed them the most.

We love you, we’ll miss you so much and ask God to bless you on this Eve of your Retirement!

Submitted by Gina Keough, VCB Manager