Biography of Rick Noriega
Rick Noriega is a former member of the Texas House of Representatives and a lifelong Texas resident. He exemplifies the concept of serving others through his varied positions as teacher, member of the Armed Forces, and his extensive work with non-profits. Already, at the age of sixty, he has been bestowed countless honors, awards, and titles.
Richard Joel Noriega was born in 1958 in Houston, Texas. His ancestors moved to the Lone Star State in the early 1900s from Mexico and remained in Texas for the remainder of their lives while running a small shop and a restaurant. Joseph Noriega and Maria Tomasa Noriega are his parents. Joseph worked for a company that would later become Westinghouse. His mother, Tommie, worked for General Electric as an executive secretary. He has two siblings, Carol and David, and their close-knit family emphasized the importance of education throughout their lives. Although his parents didn’t attend college, they wanted their children to do so. Thanks to that inspiration, Rick went on to earn an impressive list of degrees and certificates. After graduating Mount Carmel High School, he attended the University of Houston and received his diploma in 1986 in the field of journalism. Richard attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government through Harvard University for two years, graduating in 1990 with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. He went to the US Army Command and General Staff College, as well as the Senior Service Fellows Program at the University of Texas. He earned an additional certificate of Advanced International Affairs from Texas A & M University in 2006. Rick married Melissa Meisgeier in 1991, and they have two sons, Ricky, Jr., and Alex. Melissa Noriega worked with the Houston Independent School District for over twenty years, along with being active in public service. Perhaps most notably, she served in his place in the Texas House of Representatives while Rick was in Afghanistan.
The Iran Hostage Crisis spurred the young man into enlisting in the Army Reserves in 1979. Noriega continued into a variety of ranks in the military including as a member of the Texas Army National Guard. He also assisted with Operation Jump Start in Texas and helped to prevent human trafficking and drug smuggling from Mexico into the United States in 2006. Operation Enduring Freedom began with airstrikes in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, in retaliation for the attacks on America on September 11th. Richard served in Afghanistan for 14 months during that conflict and held many positions. The war on terrorism lasted until 2014. Hurricane Katrina struck US soil on August 29, 2005. While Katrina didn’t hit Texas directly, their state took in 200,000 people who were affected by Katrina from neighboring Louisiana. As Incident Commander, Rick assisted with relief efforts following the storm and coordinated the services for over 2,000 residents who were affected by the disaster. He was promoted to his current rank of Brigadier General in September 2015. Rick Noriega has earned numerous awards throughout his military career. These distinctions include Meritorious Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
Two of Noriega’s earliest memories seem to indicate an initial interest in politics. As a young child, Rick recalled seeing President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, drive through their Texas town. The next day, the President died, and Noriega has described the incredibly emotional impact of the assassination on his family. Being Latino, he also remembers the amazement that many felt that Jackie Kennedy spoke Spanish. He has also discussed his clear memories of President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not be running for a second term. After years of working on political campaigns as a volunteer, including one for President Jimmy Carter, Rick Noriega chose to run for office. He ran against Republican Michael Branch in his first race. Richard’s lifelong goal of serving others shows clearly in this decision, as well as those of his other jobs. Noriega became a member of the Texas House of Representatives in 1998 and served until 2009. He won five terms and devoted his time to writing and collaborating on over 100 bills. The Democrat’s most significant accomplishment in office was the Texas Dream Act in 2001. This law allows Texas students to pay in-state tuition rates, even if they are immigrants. Out-of-state tuitions are much higher and often prohibitively expensive for many families. These high costs have kept many immigrant students out of college, further impacting their employment possibilities. Noriega worked together with a team of representatives on this ground-breaking initiative. It inspired many other states to follow suit. The students must still meet many requirements to qualify, but it opened the doors that had previously remained tightly shut for immigrant students. In turn, Noriega was celebrated with many honors for his work. In 2002, he earned the Ohtil Award from Mexico’s government, for his public service. He was named “2001 Legislator of the Year” by Hispanic Journal.
As a teen, Rick began his employment humbly while tarring roofs. Later, He spent several years as an employee of the State Board of Insurance. Mr. Noriega taught in the Houston Independent School District and the Houston Community College System. He worked for the Government Affairs Department of Houston Industries. He has been the CEO of AVANCE, Inc., which focuses on family services since 2009. AVANCE Inc opened in 1973 in San Antonio and worked to provide opportunities and education for young children and their families. Such notables as Former First Lady Barbara Bush, Oprah Winfrey, and the news program, Good Morning America, have lauded the company. Recently, in July of 2017, he also became the CEO of the Ronald McDonald House in Houston. This foundation helps sick children and their families by providing temporary housing while their child is in the hospital. The organization is also undergoing an expansion and is counting on Noriega’s leadership for that goal.
Richard Noriega’s life has been fascinating, and he has impacted many lives with his actions and years of service. His commitment to family, education, and protecting the less fortunate is an example for us all.