Rick was raised in Houston, Texas. He graduated from Mt. Carmel High School in 1976 and attended Alvin Junior College on a Rusk athletic scholarship.
In 1984, Rick completed his undergraduate education with the help of an ROTC scholarship at the University of Houston, receiving his commission in the United States Army. He went on to earn a Master's Degree in Public Administration in 1990 at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he was an editor of the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy.
In the Army
Noriega joined the U.S. Army in the wake of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. He was an airborne school and service commander of the 143rd Infantry Detachment (Long-Range Surveillance), an aide to Brigadier General David Heuer, and aide-de-camp to General Samuel Turk, Adjutant General of the Texas Army National Guard.
He became a Lieutenant Colonel in the Texas Army National Guard, and served as deputy garrison commander of the KMTC training facility in Kabul, Afghanistan after 9/11. He was also the Laredo Border Sector Commander in Operation Jump Start; Rick was deployed in Afghanistan for a total of 14 months until August 2005.
Upon his return from Afghanistan, Rick was appointed by Mayor Bill White to Incident Commander of Houston's Hurricane Katrina relief efforts at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The GRB was transformed into a virtual city that cared for nearly 30,000 evacuees, and was then dismantled in the course of less than a month. At the center, Rick coordinated medical, employment, travel, housing and food services for more than 2,000 evacuees living on-site.
Rick and his wife, Melissa, were married in 1991. Like Rick, Melissa is active in her community, and she currently sits on the Houston City Council.
The Noriegas have two sons, Alex and Ricky Jr., and are members of Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston.
Early public service in state government
In Houston, Rick became project manager for Communities in Schools. He also taught for the Houston Independent School District and Houston Community College System before becoming a staffer in the Texas State Senate.
As a staff member, Rick coordinated the passage of the current 911 Poison Control law. He joined Houston Industries, Inc., (now CenterPoint Energy, Inc.) as part of the Governmental Affairs department in November 1993. He became a manager of economic development for CenterPoint Energy after winning the Democratic nomination for State Representative, District 145, in the spring of 1998.
A 67% majority in the 1998 general election sent Rick to the Texas House of Representatives, where was sworn in on January 12, 1999. During his first term, he authored or sponsored legislation relating to economic development, emergency repairs for schools, tougher penalties for selling inhalants to minors, regulating automobile title services in Harris County to reduce fraud, financial aid for custodial grandparents, and tuition assistance for some Texas Army National Guard members.
Rick was re-elected to a second term in the Texas House in November 2000, where he continued to serve on the Human Services and Transportation Committees. His legislative package increased benefits for custodial grandparents; established a memorial to honor Texas hero Juan Seguin; removed the statute of limitation for prosecution of fatal-hit and-run accidents and required bilingual notices to residents living near convicted sex offenders.
In Rick's second session in 2001, House Bill 1403 was passed. This bill made Texas the first state in the country to provide in-state tuition rates and financial assistance for certain immigrant children; today, thousands of them are attending college. To date eight other states, have passed or proposed similar eligibility programs and, in Congress; first, Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah) and currently others have brought forward The DREAM Act, to accomplish the same purpose at the federal level.
For authoring HB 1403 and his leadership in shepherding the bill through the legislative process, Rick received awards including one from the Texas Association of Bilingual Educators, Texas LULAC. He was also selected by the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education (TACHE) and Hispanic Journal as "2001 Legislator of the Year." The government of Mexico honored Rick with the Ohtli Award, presented to U.S. citizens of Mexican descent who have distinguished themselves in public service in 2002.
Rick was elected to his 4th term in the Texas House of Representatives in November 2004, at the same time as he was in the Army, training Afghanistan soldiers. His wife, Melissa Meisgeier Noriega, was sworn in as his temporary replacement for the 79th Legislature on January 11, 2005, and she served in his stead on the Corrections and Defense Affairs and State and Federal Relations committees.
Money in politics
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- 2008 U.S. congressional elections
- Portal:Texas and the U.S. Congress
- Texas 2008 General Election, "The Green Papers", accessed January 2011.
- 2008 Race Tracker page on Texas’s Senate Race
- Noriega's FEC filings for the 2007-08 election cycle