Administrative staff, Cory, Gayle, Environment, Reagan, Ronald, U.S. Senate, U.S. Senate campaign (1982), Women in politics
Charlene Sturbitts was born in Evanston, Illinois, on June 16, 1950, to Mary Jane and William Sturbitts. She grew up in Washington, D.C., where her father was employed on the overt side of the CIA. She attended private schools and Sweet Briar College, where she volunteered for the Muskie presidential primary campaign. After graduating from college, she spent a summer as an intern on the Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution and was then hired in the fall by Leon Billings as a researcher for the subcommittee. She attended law school at night at Catholic University while continuing her work preparing drafts for what would become the 1977 Clean Air Amendment, graduating in late 1978. When Senator Muskie left the Senate to become secretary of state, Charlene was asked by George Mitchell to join his staff working on environmental issues. She became his legislative director before leaving after five years to work as a lawyer. At the time of this interview, she was an attorney and advisor in the Office of Legislation and Regulatory Law in the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Interview includes discussion of: how Sturbitts became interested in politics; volunteering on the Muskie campaign; first became aware of Mitchell; how she was hired by Mitchell; the difference between working on a committee staff and a personal staff; the first environmental legislation Sturbitts worked on for Mitchell, putting environmental protections into legislation that changed coal power plants over to natural gas; how Mitchell became interested in environmental matters and acid rain, and how that became an issue in his 1982 campaign; positioning Mitchell as the ranking member of a subcommittee; becoming Mitchell’s legislative director and what the job entailed; staff meetings; the chief of staff’s role and the power structure in Mitchell’s office; Mitchell’s leadership style within the office; Mitchell’s position on the Tennessee-Tombigbee project; field hearings; comparing Mitchell and Muskie’s offices; issues that were priorities for Mitchell; Senators Moynihan, Simpson, Stafford, and Bentsen; Dole’s role under the Reagan administration; Mitchell’s relationship with the Reagan administration; Sturbitts’s decision to leave the Senate office; her reaction to Mitchell’s decision to retire; changes Sturbitts has observed on the Hill and in the attitudes of those who work there; Gayle Cory’s role; the attitude toward women on the Hill and how it has evolved over time; Sturbitts’s current job at the Department of Energy; and Mitchell’s contribution to the Senate.
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