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 has spent time campaigning with fellow Republican Party 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.
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. Deafness forces him to lean in close and listen intently to whoever is speaking to him.
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 – and oversaw three executions. 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.
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.
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 Security, 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.
Ridge served on a state-appointed incident review panel which investigated the Virginia Tech massacre of April 2007.