Local Democratic Party leader launches bid for council: Richelle Noroyan to seek office for first time

Santa Cruz Sentinel 07/09/2012

SANTA CRUZ – A longtime fixture in the background of local politics, Richelle Noroyan is ready to test her own electability.

The Santa Cruz native, who this month will leave her post as chair of the Santa Cruz County Democratic Party, has said she will be a candidate for City Council in November.

“I love the town I grew up in and brag about it all the time,” Noroyan said. “Being part of making decisions and making the community better are very exciting to me.”

The nomination period for the Nov. 6 council race opens July 16.

Noroyan, 43, the granddaughter of Armenian immigrants whose parents ran a convenience store and the former Hugo’s Armenian Restaurant on Mission Street, is a member of the city’s Transportation and Public Works Commission. She served five years as district director for former Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Los Altos, before becoming a marketing consultant for a small web-based firm.

Noroyan’s top priority as a council member would be spurring job growth that keeps workers in Santa Cruz rather than Silicon Valley. The Santa Cruz High graduate said she supported the La Bahia Hotel project for its construction and tourism jobs, and would support new high-tech industry here built around the gaming department at UC Santa Cruz and other ventures.

“I saw a lot of friends I went to school with, kids from blue-collar homes, not be able to stay in Santa Cruz,” she said. “We need to make an effort to bring jobs that allow people of all income levels to stay in town.”

Outgoing Councilman Ryan Coonerty, a former two-time mayor, said he believes Noroyan has the experience and pragmatism to serve on the council, including helping to deal with take-aways from Sacramento.

“She and her husband have tried to find jobs in this community, and that really informs her experience when trying to vote on projects,” Coonerty said. “Certainly her work with the Legislature and her other relationships will be helpful as the city continues to be victimized by the state of California. She also has experience in and appreciation for the private sector.”

Noroyan, who wanted to be a music teacher growing up, said she developed an interest in government early on. She realized as a music student that schools took a funding hit when Prop. 13 passed in 1978.

“We always had to do fundraisers,” she said. “That made me angry because we are doing something good for the community.”

She also understood the abuses of government, having listened to stories of relatives who survived the Armenian Genocide during World War I.

“It made them conscious about human rights,” she said of how her parents raised her. “It made me socially conscious and aware.”

After graduating from Fresno State University, now known as CSU Fresno, Noroyan worked for the state Democratic Party as a campus outreach coordinator and field representative and was the project manager for the Tobacco Education Clearinghouse of California.

Noroyan also has held posts at UCSC, Apple and Caldera Systems.

Two new candidates joined the frey Monday for the four seats up for grabs in the Nov. 6 contest. Take Back Santa Cruz board member Pamela Comstock and resident Jake Fusari filed statements of intent with the city clerk Monday.

Those who have already filed are Mayor Don Lane, former mayor Cynthia Mathews, nonprofit leader Cece Pinheiro, homeless services advocate Steve Pleich and bicycling advocate Micah Posner.