Bob Hatch’s “tireless dedication” to the Santa Maria Valley business, education and military communities was recognized and celebrated during a dinner Saturday night.
Hatch, 67, is retiring after 20 years as the president/CEO of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau. In March, he announced his retirement, effective June 30.
Approximately 300 people attended Hatch’s retirement dinner Saturday night at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge, where he was feted as a business advocate, war hero, community leader and a dad who still makes his grown children leave cookies for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. It also was mentioned that he dons matching ties and socks for each holiday.
Mayor Alice Patino and City Manager Rick Haydon noted Hatch’s many successes while leading the chamber.
“From a financial perspective, from a business perspective, from an organizational perspective and from a membership perspective, the chamber is so far more advanced now in 2014 than it was in 1994,” Haydon said.
Earlier this week, the Santa Maria City Council honored Hatch with a key to the city and a resolution, noting the chamber battled financial problems and was hindered by low membership when he took over, Patino said.
The organization has since become financially strong and now boasts a membership of more than 1,000, she noted. Hatch also created the “Thank you for shopping Santa Maria” campaign.
“We have a true public-private partnership, one that is the envy of other communities throughout the Central Coast,” Haydon said.
Haydon also cited the broad spectrum of North County leaders who showed up for Hatch’s dinner, with representatives coming from the Santa Maria, Santa Ynez and Lompoc valleys, as well as from military, education and business communities.
“I think that’s a testament to the respect that people have for you,” Haydon said.
“He’s done a lot for the base,” Balts said.
Laurie Tamura, representing the Boy Scouts of America’s Los Padres Council, presented Hatch with the group’s rare North Star Award, which recognizes community leaders for going above and beyond promoting Scouting and helping youth. The award, created on the national level in 2011, had only been given to one other person on the Central Coast before Saturday, she said.
“As past president of the Los Padres Council and acting on behalf of national board of the Boy Scouts of America, it is my honor to present the North Star Award to Bob Hatch for his outstanding service to Scouting on the Central Coast over five decades,” she told Hatch, an Eagle Scout.
“Bob, you’re a true inspiration to us all.”
Santa Maria Elks Rodeo representatives hailed Hatch for his support in helping bring back the mini rodeo to introduce thousands of third-graders to the nation’s Western heritage. Over 12 years, 100,000 third-graders have attended the mini rodeo.
“That’s because of that phone call to you,” Tina Tonascia, Elks Rodeo office manager, told Hatch.
In May, chamber officials announced the hiring of Glenn Morris, president and CEO of the Visalia Chamber of Commerce, to succeed Hatch.
The Santa Maria chamber hired Hatch from a similar job at the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce in 1994. He logged the second longest tenure in the organization’s 100-year history.
Hatch has deep roots on the Central Coast. He grew up in Solvang and graduated from Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in 1964. After a short stint at Allan Hancock College, Hatch was drafted into the Army and eventually sent to Vietnam.
Hatch has been active in local veterans matters and, in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he led efforts, with colleague Dave Cross, to create the Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial located in front of the Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center. The memorial honors veterans and veteran groups, and lists the names of Santa Maria-area troops who died while serving in the military since World War II.
He remains active in the community, including serving on the Orcutt Union School District Board of Trustees.
He and his wife, Teresa, have three grown children and one grandchild.