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Thomas Joseph Ridge (born August 26, 1945) is an American politician who served as a member of the United States House of Representatives (1983–1995), Governor of Pennsylvania (1995–2001), Assistant to the President for Homeland Security (2001–2003), and the first United States Secretary of Homeland Security (2003–2005). Since re-entering the private sector, Ridge has served on the boards of The Home Depot and The Hershey Company and as a senior advisor to Deloitte & Touche, and TechRadium. Ridge is also the founder and CEO of Ridge Global, LLC, a Washington, D.C. based security consulting firm. Ridge spent time campaigning with fellow Republican, Senator John McCain during his 2008 bid for the presidency and was believed by some to have been in the short list of potential running mates. Ridge wrote in his memoir that then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and then-Attorney General Ashcroft pressured him to raise the terror alert level, running up to the 2004 elections, based upon information they had received.

Early life

Ridge was born in Munhallmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, in Pittsburghmarker's Steel Valley, the oldest of three children. His parents were Laura (née Sudimack) and Thomas Regis Ridge, who was a traveling salesman and Navy veteran. Ridge's maternal grandparents were Ruthenian immigrants from the former Czechoslovakiamarker and his paternal great-grandparents emigrated from Great Britainmarker. Ridge was raised in veterans' public housing in Erie, Pennsylvaniamarker. He was educated at St. Andrews Elementary School and Cathedral Preparatory School and did well both academically and in sports. He earned a scholarship to Harvard Collegemarker, where he paid his way through with construction work, played intramural baseball and football, and graduated with honors in 1967.

After his first year at the Dickinson School of Law, he was drafted into the United States Army, where he served as an infantry staff sergeant during the Vietnam War. He earned the Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Later he was offered a position as an officer but turned it down when he learned that it would require an extra year of service.

A ruptured appendix cut short his tour and he returned home in 1970; service also aggravated a childhood ear infection. Since then Ridge has had a hearing aid in his left ear.

After returning to Pennsylvaniamarker, he completed his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree at the Dickinson School of Law, graduating in 1972, and entered private practice.

Public service in Pennsylvania

He became Assistant District Attorney in Erie County, Pennsylvaniamarker in 1980 and prosecuted 86 cases in two years. In 1982 he successfully ran for a seat in Congress from northwestern Pennsylvania, and was re-elected six times. Ridge was notable as the first enlisted Vietnammarker combat veteran elected to the U.S. House. , Ridge has never lost an election for public office.

In 1994, despite being little-known outside of northwest Pennsylvania, Ridge ran for governor of Pennsylvania, winning the election as a pro-choice Republican. He was reelected in 1998 with 57 percent of the vote in a four-way race. Ridge's share of the vote was the highest for a Republican governor in Pennsylvania (where Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost 500,000) in more than half a century. Ridge served as Governor until his resignation to become the Director of Homeland Security in 2001.

As governor, he promoted "law and order" policies, supporting a three-strikes law and a faster death penalty process. A death penalty supporter, Ridge signed more than 224 execution warrants – five times the number signed over a 25-year period by the two previous governors – but only three voluntary executions were carried out. On social issues, he opposed gay marriage, and, in spite of being a Roman Catholic, is pro-choice on abortion issues.

The Governor nominated Dr. Peter J. Jannetta to be his secretary of health. Dr. Jannetta was known to the governor to have testified perjuriously in Court, the Pennsylvania Superior Court stating, "We have little difficulty in concluding that Dr. Jannetta's testimony at deposition was different than, or inconsistent with, the testimony at trial." Levy v Jannetta, CCP Allegheny County, GD 81-7689; appeal -J. A370017/92 Levy v Jannetta et al., No. 00150 Pittsburgh, 1992. settled, 1995."Dr. Jannetta served as Governor Ridge's health secretary for 6 months.

Over Ridge's tenure, the Commonwealth's budget grew by two to three percent per fiscal year and combined tax reductions totaled over $2 billion. Ridge created and grew a "Rainy Day" Fund balance to over $1 billion to be utilized during an economic downturn or recession.

Ridge pushed for legislation permitting competition among electric utilities and enhanced federal and state support for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). He also separated the Commonwealth's environmental regulatory and conservation programs into two new agencies; the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Ridge proposed the creation of public charter schools in Pennsylvania and in establishing alternate schools for disruptive students. He launched new academic standards that established academic expectations for what students were expected to know in different grades. Ridge also proposed a school choice demonstration program.

Ridge oversaw a number of e-government projects including renewing drivers' licenses and vehicle registrations to viewing historical documents and library catalogs. The Commonwealth's portal won several national awards. One of the nation's first electronic grant systems was put into place at the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Ridge also created the Link-to-Learn initiative to increase the effective use of technology in public schools and universities.

In 2001, he was named runner up "Politician of the Year" by PoliticsPA. In a 2002 PoliticsPA Feature story designating politicians with yearbook superlatives, he was named the "Most Popular."

2000 U.S. Presidential election

Ridge served as a close advisor to GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush, a close friend from their simultaneous tenures as governors, during the 2000 presidential campaign. In return, Bush named Ridge to his short list for possible running mates, along with New York Governor George Pataki, Michigan Governor John Engler, Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, former Missouri Senator John Danforth, and former American Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole.

However, Bush selected the man who was in charge of leading his search for the vice presidential nominee, former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, to be his running mate.

Ridge was also reportedly Colin Powell's choice to be Secretary of Defense in Bush's new cabinet. With his reputation as a former Congressman and a strong administrator as governor, in addition to his friendship with Bush and Powell, he was seen as a frontrunner for the post. But after much decrying by conservatives over his lack of defense experience, particularly by Republican primary candidate Gary Bauer, who decried Ridge as a "peacenik-type of congressman during the Reagan years" and Robert Novak who wrote of Ridge's lack of defense experience and his opposition to the Strategic Defense Initiative. There was also rumored to be a lot of animosity regarding the nomination between Powell and Dick Cheney regarding Ridge. With all of this Ridge promptly took his name out of the running and Donald Rumsfeld was eventually named as defense secretary.

Homeland Security Advisor and Secretary

Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. President George W. Bush created the Office of Homeland Securitymarker within the White House, and named Ridge to head it. The charge to the nation's new director of homeland security was to develop and coordinate a comprehensive national strategy to strengthen the United States against terrorist threats or attacks. In the words of President George W. Bush, he had the strength, experience, personal commitment and authority to accomplish this critical mission. Ridge formally resigned as Pennsylvania's governor on October 5, 2001.

In January 2003 and after the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Office of Homeland Security split into a Cabinet-level Department, the Department of Homeland Securitymarker, and the White House Homeland Security Advisory Council. Ridge left the White House and became the first Secretary of Homeland Security. The Department's Mission "is to (A) prevent terrorist attacks within the United States; (B) reduce the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism; and (C) minimize the damage, and assist in the recovery, from terrorist attacks that do occur within the United States" (From H.R. 5005-8 the Homeland Security Act of 2002). The newly created Department was the most comprehensive reorganization of the Federal government since the National Security Act of 1947. The Department of Homeland Security consolidates 22 agencies and 180,000 employees, unifying once-fragmented Federal functions in a single agency dedicated to protecting America from terrorism. Ridge worked with the employees from combined agencies to strengthen borders, provide for intelligence analysis and infrastructure protection, improve the use of science and technology to counter weapons of mass destruction, and to create a comprehensive response and recovery division.

In January 2004, Ridge was named among others in a lawsuit filed by a Syrian-born Canadian Maher Arar who said he was tortured in Syria after being deported by American authorities.

On November 30, 2004, Ridge submitted his resignation to the President, saying, "After more than 22 consecutive years of public service, it is time to give personal and family matters a higher priority." In his book The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege...and How We Can Be Safe Again, Ridge says his resignation was due to an effort by senior Bush administration officials to raise the nation's terror alert level in the days before the 2004 presidential vote. Publication of Ridge's book is slated for September 1, 2009. The book further discusses

Work in the private sector

Ridge is the founder and CEO of Ridge Global, an advisory firm in Washington, D.C.

Ridge served on a state-appointed incident review panel which investigated the Virginia Tech massacremarker of April 2007.

Home Depot

In February 2005, Tom Ridge was named to the board of Home Depot. Ridge's compensation was expected to be about $100,000 per annum for this position. Since April 2005, Ridge has also served on the board of Savi Technology, the primary technology provider for the wireless cargo-monitoring network for the United States Department of Defense.

Deloitte LLP

In November 2006, Tom Ridge was announced as a Senior Advisor for Deloitte & Touche USA LLP.

The Hershey Company

In November 2007, Ridge was named to serve on The Hershey Company's Executive Board. The Hershey Trust, the primary shareholder of Hershey, asked for a change in board composition after several years of poor stock performance. The board named Ridge to the board for his knowledge of economics.

TechRadium Inc

Announced in January 2008, Tom Ridge will serve as a senior advisor to TechRadium, Inc., a leading Texas-based security technology company that provides its patented alert and notificationsystem, IRIS (Immediate Response Information System), to a wide range of usersincluding municipalities, public schools and universities, utilities, and military programs.

PURE Bioscience

In September 2009, PURE Bioscience, creator of a patented antimicrobial, announced Ridge would serve on its Advisory Board along with former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson.

2008 U.S. Presidential election

Tom Ridge served as a senior aide to Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain of Arizona, and was considered by some as a possible running mate for McCain.

Possible 2010 Senate candidacy

According to Fox News, many Republicans hoped Ridge would run for the United States Senate against the newly turned Democrat Arlen Specter, who stated he would seek re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary. Already seeking the Republican nomination was former Representative Pat Toomey, who narrowly lost to Specter in the Republican primary in 2004. Some Republicans thought Ridge would have a better chance against Specter than would Toomey. A Quinnipiac Universitymarker poll conducted between April 30, 2009 and May 3, 2009 placed Ridge within three points of Specter in a hypothetical matchup between the two men. Some Toomey supporters criticized the idea of a Ridge candidacy because, although Ridge was still registered to vote in Pennsylvania, he was actually living in Chevy Chase, Marylandmarker.

On May 7, 2009, Ridge announced that he would not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2010.


Personal life

Tom's wife, Michele Ridge, is the former executive director of the Erie Countymarker Library System. They have been married since 1979 and have two children: Lesley and Tommy.

Electoral history


  1. BBC profile of Tom Ridge 9 November, 2004 Security Chief Ridge: 'The Task is Enormous',, October 8, 2001.
  2. Newsmaker: Tom Ridge, Online NewsHour, May 9, 2002
  3. Person of the Week: Tom Ridge. Now for the hard part: After a week in which the Senate gave him a cabinet-level position, the Homeland Security chief is preparing to take on the toughest job in Washington,, November 22, 2002
  4. Ridge's journey to the national stage, The Rising Son; updated January 21, 2003. Locally produced biography of Tom Ridge
  5. Herb Barness '48 is a major player in the Republican party at the state and national level January 1996
  6. Statement of the Hon. Rosa DeLauro on $10 Billion Accenture Government Contract June 1, 2004
  7. Anti-terror supremo is latest to quit Bush team December 1, 2004
  8. Bedard, Paul. " Tom Ridge on National Security After 9/11", U.S. News & World Report, 19 Aug 2009.
  9. Big changes at Hershey

External links

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