Fall 2022 Fellow
Noelia Rodriguez started her career in politics in 1994 when she was recruited by LA Mayor Dick Riordan to be his press secretary. In Year One with the Mayor, she earned her political stripes advising and representing him on historic news events such as the rebuilding of LA after the Northridge earthquake, the OJ Simpson trial, the then new crime phenomena known as “carjackings,” (one of which resulted in an international crisis when two Japanese foreign exchange students lost their lives), and the passage of the bipartisan Federal Crime Bill. She went on to work on a wide spectrum of issues focused on the mayor’s four priorities: Making LA safer; making neighborhoods healthy; making city hall accountable; and making LA attractive to job-creating businesses.
Rodriguez was named deputy mayor in 1998. In February 2000, Mayor Riordan named her president and CEO of LA 2000, the host committee for the first democratic convention in Los Angeles since President Kennedy’s nomination in 1960. The historic event was such a success, that the head of the DNC declared, “The City of Angels was heaven on earth for the democrats,” during convention week.
Ironically, Noelia’s next political appointment was to a Republican administration when, in January 2001, she was asked to join President George W. Bush’s executive office as press secretary and director of communications to First Lady Laura Bush. Noelia was the first Mexican American to serve in this role and the longest-serving White House spokesperson for the First Lady. She counseled Mrs. Bush during times of celebration – such as the annual Easter Egg Roll (and its related perils), State Dinners, annual Holiday festivities, the First Lady’s National Book Festival – and times of tragedy, including the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath, the invasion of Afghanistan and the Anthrax threats, all during the first year of the administration. Noelia traveled the world on Air Force One with President and Mrs. Bush and collaborated with the West Wing on public appearances involving the First Lady.
Noelia considers herself fortunate to have entered the political arena when bipartisanship was the norm, and compromise was an art. She also learned the importance of message discipline to success in politics and public service and the value of the intersection of communications and politics in public service.
In 2004, she was named VP of Communications for Univision. She also served on the board of Maria Shriver’s annual First Ladies Conference and was part of the team that transformed the traditional program into a global event that convened thousands of Californians.
In 2007, Noelia was named to the fall class of Resident Fellows at Harvard’s prestigious Institute of Politics. In January 2008, she was selected Director of the JFK Jr. Forum, Harvard’s premiere venue for discussion and debate at the Kennedy School.
Noelia has also held C-suite positions at LA Metro, and the Port of Long Beach where she was the highest-ranking female executive in the Port’s 105-year history. She is currently chief of staff at Metrolink, southern California’s regional rail system.
She is an advisory member of Leadership California, a professional development program for women leaders, and is on the standing committee for the biennial LC Goes to DC program.
Noelia earned her B.S. in Business Administration from California State University, Los Angeles, and her A.A. from East Los Angeles College.
Though Noelia is a native Texan, she is still searching for the perfect pair of cowboy boots. Preferably with the perfect cowboy in them.
Study Group: Communications from the East Wing to the West Coast
This group took a look at political messaging on both the presidential and local levels. Drawing on Fellow Noelia Rodriguez’s experience as White House Press Secretary to First Lady Laura Bush and L.A. Mayor Dick Riordan’s deputy mayor, students learned about the connection between communications and policy making. Study group topics included the importance of message discipline and how to connect with stakeholders through the use of strategic communications. Guest speakers were brought in to speak on relevant topics.
Fall 2022 Semester Recap
Noelia Rodriguez said this about her experience at USC’s Center for the Political Future: “This experience was a reinvigoration of my passion for politics and public service. The students were amazing and I found great energy from them thanks to their curiosity. My favorite part was the looks in students’ eyes. At my study group, they looked at me as though they wanted answers. They also had questions that made me a better person and a better political student in general. It tells me that there is a lot of hope for the future, especially with the next generation of leaders who are going to build on CPF’s mission of bipartisanship and civil discourse. I’m full of hope. CPF did that for me.”
USC students in Noelia’s Study Group shared this about their experience:
“Noelia was so welcoming and kind. I learned so much from her; being able to connect with a person like Noelia was so helpful. It was really interesting and cool to meet the guest speakers. They’re elite figures in DC that have first hand experience in politics. Beyond having conversations and learning from them, we were able to connect with them. As I move forward in my career, it’s going to be so helpful.”
“This was my first time at USC experiencing a group of people who were genuinely interested in politics and wanted to make change like I do. I want to pursue a career in politics. Noelia really wants to help us with our professional career development. Noelia worked her way to the top, so seeing that made me know that it’s possible. The people at CPF really want to help me get to Washington and help me achieve my dreams.”
Noelia shared her thoughts on the importance of politics, her first political experience, and her advice for having respectful political discourse in her “Quick Takes: Q&A with CPF Fellow Noelia Rodriguez” video.