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Torin Bales named Victoria Chamber's Citizen of the Year

By BY ALLISON MILES - AMILES@VICAD.COM
Jan. 31, 2013 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 31, 2013 at 8:01 p.m.


Other award recipients

at Thursday night's Victoria Chamber of Commerce annual banquet include:

Corporate Partner of the Year: H-E-B

• Who they are: Grocery chain

• Why they won: "They've been in this community a long time and have helped not only through the events they sponsor, like Feast of Sharing, but in their commitment to the food bank. They have done some great things for the chamber and needed to be recognized." - Randy Vivian, president and CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce

Small-Business Partner of the Year: Computer Command

• Who they are: Data, voice and wireless solutions provider

• Why they won: "They're a stellar member of the chamber and have helped us in a lot of things. This year, for instance, they donated a sound system for us to use during events. They're integrated into the community, love it and it shows by what they do." - Randy Vivian, president and CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce

Ambassador of the Year: Rachel Nessel

• Profession: Business solutions coordinator with Victoria College

• Why she won: "Rachel is everywhere. She loves the chamber but also loves this community, and does a really wonderful job when we have events. She now also has a new role as one of the officers with the Ambassador group." - Randy Vivian, president and CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce

A standing ovation greeted Torin Bales on Thursday night as he shook hands, accepted hugs and made his way to the front of the room.

The Victoria jewelry store owner was named Citizen of the Year at the Victoria Chamber of Commerce's annual awards banquet. The banquet took place at Spring Creek Place Event Center, 12116 Nursery Drive.

Bales said he was honored yet humbled by the recognition.

"Honestly, I should be thanking them," he said with a gesture toward the 325-person crowd. "To me, the people of Victoria is what makes Victoria great. The people in this room should be the ones receiving awards."

Bales moved to Victoria almost 20 years ago with his father's company, Suzanne's jewelry stores, and he embraced the Crossroads community, said Randy Vivian, president and CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. He took an innovative approach to his business, later opening Torin Bales Fine Jewelry.

"Then we saw him take a chance, moving from his location in Whispering Creek to being a pioneer as one of the first to move out on the loop," Vivian said.

Bales' dedication to Downtown Victoria also deserved recognition, Vivian added.

The jeweler recently renovated a building at 103 W. Santa Rosa St., which became Steve-A-Reno's Rock 'N' Roll Blues Bar, and also has two downtown renovations underway. That includes a building at 212 S. Main St. that Bales said he plans to convert into a restaurant or reception venue and a William Street location he hopes to turn into retail and corporate rental space.

"He really believes in the renovation of downtown," Vivian said.

Bales is passionate about animals and has supported the Dorothy H. O'Connor Pet Adoption Center for years, said Sally Kuecker, the center's executive director.

During a December photo contest, for instance, Bales asked people to submit pictures of animals dressed in Christmas attire to his Facebook page. He donated $5 per picture to the center, she said, noting the final sum totaled about $1,000. Bales also adopted Honey, his small Shih-Tzu mix, from the center and goes above and beyond to help an animal in need, she said.

Kuecker recalled a time Bales was trying to capture an injured feral cat that needed veterinary care.

"He finally set up a trap, so he could get it some help, but he kept catching Honey," she said with a laugh. "But helping animals is what he's about. That, and educating the community about pet care and responsibility."

Melissa Bales, Torin Bales' wife of almost 21 years, described her husband as a man who is pro-Victoria, pro-growth and eager to help the town prosper.

He serves on the Victoria Main Street Program board, she said, and was recently elected to the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corp. He previously sat on the Victoria Symphony board.

Melissa Bales said her husband is a family man, noting the couple has two daughters - Allison Bales, 19, and Natalie Bales, 16.

She said she was proud of this most recent accomplishment.

"He's always working behind-the-scenes on things, putting Victoria in a positive light when he talks to people he knows in Corpus Christi and other cities," she said. "I'm real excited and know he will be very honored."

Charles Armstrong, with NASA Human Spaceflight, was the evening's keynote speaker.

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