Kandace Tornquist is a name closely associated in New Braunfels with affordable housing.
Recently installed as one of the three at-large members on the 15-member New Braunfels workforce housing committee, Tornquist has a long history connected to affordable housing and said she is passionate about the issue.
Born and raised in Alvin, Texas outside of Houston, Tornquist recalls living in a town similar to New Braunfels that only had about 8,000 folks in it at the time.
“It was idealistic growing up there in the 50s and 60s,” Tornquist said. “My mom knew everything I’d done before I got home,” she added with a laugh.
As editor of the Alvin High School yearbook, Tornquist also was involved in drama and graduated top 10 in her class.
“I then attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, which only had about 800 students back then,” Tornquist said. “During my time there I was involved in a sorority (Delta Delta Delta or ‘Tri Delt’), on yearbook staff and was studying psychology.”
After a year and a half at Southwestern, Tornquist transferred to University of Texas in Austin, where she completed her bachelors degree in psychology.
“I was working fulltime at the Brown Schools fulltime so I kept busy balancing the two,” Tornquist said. “I was there a year and a half, so I was in my undergrad for just three years.”
After graduating in 1970, Tornquist went on to work for IMC drilling in Houston.
“I started as a secretary and was promoted later to a recruiter,” Tornquist said. “After that I went to work for Brown & Root as a recruiter.”
Tornquist was the first female recruiter for IMC’s Houston location, and recalls the ’70s being a time of change for women.
“At Brown & Root, I met my husband Perry,” Tornquist said. “We got married and he started his own business, Salem technical services, and I worked with him in that for a while.”
Perry had two daughters when the couple married, and together they had a third daughter.
“We’ve been married 44 years,” Tornquist said.
Perry’s company was eventually bought by a larger company, the HL-Yoh Company.
In 1983, the couple moved to Austin, where Tornquist received her MBA from UT in 1989 in organizational development.
In 1990 Tornquist became involved with the Austin Habitat for Humanity, where she was named executive director in 1995.
“I started out at first as a consultant on organizational development,” she said.
Tornquist is credited for helping get Austin Habitat for Humanity grown and expanded during her three-year tenure as executive director.
“We did one project where we aimed to build 12 houses in 12 days,” Tornquist said. “During that second weekend however, the Flood of ’98 happened.”
After the 12 homes were built, Tornquist stepped down as executive director to help Austin’s city government on contracted work relating to Y2K, and then related to affordable housing.
“We were getting all prepared for Y2K,” she said with a laugh. “When nothing happened we were just like, ‘Great, onto the next project.’”
She and her husband retired and moved to New Braunfels in 2007. In January of 2009, Tornquist became the executive director of Comal County Habitat for Humanity.
“I’m proud of the work we did to grow that here,” she said.
After leaving in 2013, Tornquist became a member of New Braunfels Housing Partners at the request of Alice Jewell from the McKenna Foundation, and has been a big part of helping nonprofits obtain resources to help with affordable housing.
In 2016, she returned to Comal County Habitat for Humanity as a volunteer, and in 2017 she became a member of the board for the public library.
“During my time at Habitat I came to understand how important housing is to change,” Tornquist said. “Change starts at home, and if someone doesn’t have a home, there can’t be change.”
In the past couple of weeks, Tornquist was named as one of the three at-large members on the city council’s new workforce housing committee, which Tornquist said she’s excited about.
“I want to help New Braunfels build more than houses, I want to help it build homes,” Tornquist said.
During her free time, Tornquist spends time with her grandchildren, traveling or making handmade books.
“I’m very excited to what we will do together on the committee,” she said.