Melissa Noriega was born to Charles and Connie Meisgeier in Philadelphia, PA. Her father is a lifelong educator; her mother is a writer. Her family moved to Houston, Texas in 1957. Noriega grew up in Austin and Houston and graduated from Scarborough High School in the Houston Independent School District.
Noriega attended the University of Houston and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology in 1977. While at the University of Houston, she was president of Phi Mu Fraternity, vice-president of the Pan-Hellenic Council, a candidate for Miss UH, and a Vanity Fair Top Ten in 1977.
In 1983, Noriega received a Master's of Education degree in Counseling from the University of Houston College of Education.
Noriega was employed with the Houston Independent School District from 1981 to 2007 in various capacities. She began as a research assistant for Title I Research and served HISD as a staffer to a variety of department heads and superintendents, as well as Manager of Special Projects and District Initiatives, spending a significant portion of her career in Parental Involvement and Community Engagement. She concluded her career at HISD as a manager of Professional Development Services.
Melissa Meisgeier married Richard J. "Rick" Noriega on February 14, 1991. She is the mother of Richard J. "Ricky" Noriega, Jr., graduate of HISD's Carnegie Vanguard High School, and currently a 'Roo at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. The Melissa and BG Noriega are no longer married, but they continue to be partners in politics and parenting.
Noriega is a past president of the Eastwood Civic Association and served on the executive committee of Parents for Public Schools. She is a Life Member of the University of Houston Alumni and was named as a Distinguished Alumni in 2017. She is a member of Houston's Christ Church Cathedral. She has received numerous awards for her work in public service, including the Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike relief efforts. She has served on Houston's East End Foundation, improving Houston's East End neighborhoods, and the Board of New Hope Housing, serving Houston's homeless.
Noriega served as a State Representative for Texas House District 145 in 2005 while her husband, State Representative Richard J. "Rick" Noriega, then a Major (who returned a Lieutenant Colonel) in the Texas Army National Guard, served in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2005, Melissa Noriega left her career with the Houston Independent School District and was formally sworn in as a member of the 79th Texas Legislature. On January 11, 2005, she became the first person to serve in the Texas Legislature under provisions of an amendment to the Texas Constitution approved by voters in 2003, allowing the designation of another person to hold the full rights and privileges of office while the legislator is on active duty in the military. In addition to serving in the Regular Session of the 79th Texas Legislature, Melissa Noriega also served during two special sessions of the Texas Legislature on Education during 2005.
While serving in the Texas Legislature, Noriega served on the Defense Affairs and State and Federal Relations Committee, which oversees military operations in Texas, as well as Homeland Security. She also served on the Corrections Committee, where she was particularly interested in issues relating to incarcerated mothers, and their children.
She was named Freshman of the Year by the Democratic Caucus and was awarded the first Joe E. Moreno Public Service Award by her colleagues.
In January, 2007, Noriega launched her campaign for At-Large Position 3 on the Houston City Council, a post which is elected "at large," by a vote of the entire city of Houston. This post was vacated by Shelley Sekula Gibbs, who won a Special Election to replace former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in November 2006. Sekula Gibbs was required by Texas law to vacate the seat to serve the remainder of DeLay's term even though she lost to Nick Lampson in the general election.
Prior to 1993, vacancies on the Houston City Council were filled by mayoral appointment, until the Texas Legislature changed the state law where special elections are mandated. Noriega's campaign was the third special election held since 1997 where Chris Bell served the remainder of former councilmember John Peavy, who resigned.
Running on a platform of safer neighborhoods, a healthier environment, and more effective government for Houston, Noriega polled 47% against 11 other candidates in the May 12, 2007 general special election and advanced to a run-off against Roy Morales, a retired military officer. On June 17, 2007, Noriega defeated Morales, garnering more than 55 percent of the vote. Noriega defeated Morales again in the general election in November 2007, and earned her first full two-year term on Houston City Council.
Melissa Noriega served as the chair the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee for two terms. This committee considers public safety and law enforcement, including Police, Fire and EMS; Homeland Security and emergency preparedness; and the Houston Emergency Center. 67% of the City's budget goes to public safety. CM Noriega advanced improvements and grant dollars to improve city forensic services, including the testing of rape kits, DNA testing, and the development of an independent crime lab, efforts that have been sustained.
She served on other committees, including committees: Budget and Fiscal Affairs; Flooding and Drainage Issues; Human Services and Technology Access; Regulation, Development and Neighborhood Protection; Transportation, Infrastructure and Aviation; and the Water Resource Management subcommittee. She served as the Houston city alternate for the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC, the local COG).
Her final term, CM Noriega served as the chair of the Infrastructure, Transportation and Technology committee, overseeing the implementation of the initial ReBuild Houston effort. She worked closely with the SafeClear and other congestion mitigation efforts and worked to improve traffic, mobility and air quality throughout the region, serving as one of the city representatives on the Transportation Policy Council (TPC) of the Houston-Galveston Area Council.
Council Member Melissa Noriega served on The Mayor's Complete Count Committee, a grassroots, community-based awareness program focused on the importance of being counted in the 2010 census. She was co-chair of the successful City Bond Election of 2012.
In 2009, Noriega ran unopposed for re-election to Houston City Council. In 2011, she won re-election to her final term against Chris Carmona. She left City Council at the end of 2013, due to Houston's term limits restrictions, and was followed by Michael Kubosh. Since leaving council, Ms Noriega served as an independent consultant for Swiftwater Solutions. She also served on Houston's East End Foundation, and is on the board of New Hope Housing. She is the VP of her SuperNeighborhood and continues her work in Houston's East End.
Presently Ms Noriega is Vice President for Policy & Partnerships for BakerRipley, formerly Neighborhood Centers Inc, a community development agency, one of the largest non-profits in Texas. She is an advocate for immigration reform and a fierce supporter of students attending and graduating college through the auspices of what is known as the Texas Dream Act.
Noriega has numerous awards and honors, including:
Freedom Award, University of Houston Chapter 2014
American Leadership Forum (ALF) Class XXV Senior Fellow
Harris County-Houston Joint Commission on Children
American Jewish Committee, Houston Chapter, Community Service Award, 2006
East End Chamber of Commerce, Service Award, 2005
Variety Club of Houston, Community Service Award
Greater Houston Partnership, Recognition Award, 2005
Freshman of the Year, First Recipient of the Joe E. Moreno Service Award, Democratic Caucus, Texas House of Representatives, 79th Legislative Session, 2005