Shortly after midnight on January 16, 2024, Norm Steenstra, Jr, a founder of West Virginia’s environmental movement, passed away at his home in Charleston, at the age of 72.
Mr. Steenstra was a grassroots environmental organizer and lobbied to better the lives and health of his fellow West Virginians. He was one of the original founders of the WV Environmental Council back in the late 1980s. In the 1990’s he helped to pass groundbreaking legislation in West Virginia that protected our groundwater, limited the dumping of out-of-state garbage and protected our air.
For more than a decade, Steenstra served as the executive director of West Virginia Citizen Action, a non-profit political watchdog organization responsible for organizing and providing guidance for West Virginia citizens on various issues ranging from universal healthcare, environmental protection, labor & property rights and, registering voters and getting them out to vote.
“Norm was a remarkable leader and mentor for many who remain active in West Virginia’s environmental movement and others who are working to create a government that is open, honest and accountable to the needs of our communities,” said Gary Zuckett, a longtime friend and current Executive Director of WV Citizen Action. “He had a significant and positive impact on public policy in the Mountain State during his tenure. He leaves an outstanding legacy, but also a tremendous hole in our hearts.”
Before the advent of social media, Mr. Steenstra was well known for his ability to quickly gather several hundred people for public events and protests. He was a tremendous communicator and was often able to work with opposing sides due to his skills at negotiating and being able to see the bigger picture.
After retiring from WV Citizen Action, he became director of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority. During the national economic downturn in 2006-2008, the facility was one of the few such facilities in the state to turn a profit, due to Steenstra’s innovative and creative outlook on use of recycled materials.
Editor’s Note: Norm Steenstra served on the Board of Directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.