Poised for the future

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By Angela Rabago-Mussi

At 35, Israel Torres already has a resumè that people years older would envy. After completing law school in 1999, Torres worked with the city of Phoenix, first as chief of staff for a council member, then, in the planning department. In 2003, Gov. Janet Napolitano appointed him director of the state Registrar of Contractors, where he was responsible for 11 statewide offices that regulate more than 50,000 licensed commercial and residential contractors.

Last year, he served as chairman of the board for the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce –where he first served as an intern while attending college at Arizona State University. The married father of two young children has held a long list of volunteer positions and at age 30 was named one of the city’s “40 under 40” community leaders by the Business Journal of Phoenix. And he’s not slowing down – earlier this year, Torres resigned from his position as Registrar of Contractors to run for Secretary of State.

We spoke with Torres recently to ask about his early success.

LPM: Did you have any mentors?

TORRES: Absolutely, mentors play such a critical role in shaping and developing young leaders. I lost my dad in a mine accident when I was 6 years old. My grandmother, my grandfather and my mom all played a tremendous role in sharing values like a good work ethic and the importance of family. They were constant role models.

Armando Flores, of Arizona Public Service, has been a tremendous role model for me. You can’t accomplish some of those things without being able to pick up the phone and call people that you respect and admire and get insight and guidance from their expertise and experience.

LPM: You graduated from Valley Leadership in 2000. Was that the beginning of your involvement in community service?

TORRES: I’ve been involved in my community well before Valley Leadership. Even when I was at ASU and I was working, I was also a basketball coach at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club and involved in Junior Achievement. Giving back to the community is something we all need to do – we share our successes and our failures with our community.

LPM: You’ve held several different positions in the first seven years of your career. Has taking risks been part of your success?

TORRES: I’m a firm believer that if you can dream it, you can do it. You have to be willing to take those chances.  I remember I always wanted to be a lawyer, but law school seemed so distant. You take the steps and it seems difficult, but you get through it. It’s a challenge. Even in my decision to run for Secretary of State, when people say it can’t be done that just adds incentive to get out and work hard and do it.

LPM: What advice can you offer young, Hispanic business people just starting out?

TORRES: Work hard, get your education, it will open so many doors. Don’t take no for an answer. You may have to try two or three times, but that’s the beauty of our country: your destiny is in your hands.

LPM: You’ve worked with small business owners both at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and as the Registrar of Contractors. What have you learned from them?

TORRES: I love working with entrepreneurs. Small business owners work harder than anyone else. That’s one of the real prizes of our community – we’ve got so many people with such a high entrepreneurial spirit. It’s exciting. Small business owners don’t take no for an answer. They find a way to get it done. It’s the kind of perseverance that makes us a better country and makes us a better state.

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