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New director ‘passionate’ about recycling

Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority board members believe their new executive director will bring a lot of energy to the position.

The board members unanimously voted to hire James Young, 27, of Charleston, during Tuesday's regularly scheduled meeting. Young will officially start on April 2 at a salary of $45,000 a year, plus benefits.

"He's passionate about our efforts to increase recycling," board member Rod Watkins said.

The agency has been without a full-time executive director since Norm Steenstra resigned in September.

The agency has struggled through the resignation and has hemorrhaged money after the board opted to close the Slack Street recycling center about a year ago because of structural issues and the discovery of combustible dust.

However, the agency signed an agreement with West Virginia Recycling Services to allow the for-profit company to begin operating the center.

The company has since begun processing recyclables at the center and has allowed employees to enter the building.

Board chairwoman Kay Summers believes the agency is now "seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."

"We're really excited about our new executive director," Summers said. "He's very energetic and passionate about recycling."

"He has a lot of passion for community work and we have high hopes for him," she added.

Business manager Jeannie Gunter has served as interim executive director since Steenstra resigned. She will continue with her role as business manager under Young.

"He and Jeannie (Gunter) will work well together," Summers said.

One of the reasons the Solid Waste Authority agreed to the partnership with the company was to focus more attention on public outreach in an attempt to increase the amount of recycling in the county, board member Kasey Russell said during a previous interview.

Public outreach will be one of the areas Young will place an emphasis on.

"Education is definitely going to be my main focus," Young said. "I want to let people know that recycling is an important aspect of their lives."

He will also focus on upgrading the agency's image by creating a website and establishing a presence on social media networks, Young said.

Young believes his area of focus will also be his biggest challenge.

He believes many people living in the area think it is much easier to just throw recyclables away rather than send them to the recycling center. This is a thought process he hopes to overcome.

"It's our job to show them the benefits of recycling," Young said.

Young received a bachelor's degree in political science with an emphasis on public administration from Marshall University. He obtained a master's degree in city management from East Tennessee University.

The agency also made a profit for the first time in several months, Gunter announced during the meeting.

Because of a drop in expenses, such as gasoline costs, the authority made about $7,800 in February, Gunter said.

The agency was losing about $30,000 a month by hauling material to a recycling center in Beckley before deciding to allow West Virginia Recycling Services Inc. to process recycling

The board has yet to receive any payments from West Virginia Recycling Services for material, so Watkins believes the authority's profits will continue to increase.   

The Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority board also met for the first time in their new office space in the Lee Building at 210 Brooks St. in downtown Charleston.

Board members recently signed a lease for the third floor office space for around $700 a month. The agency is in the process of moving its office equipment and records from the trailer located next to the Slack Street recycling center.

They also agreed to apply for a $20,000 grant from the West Virginia Solid Waste Management Board to help fund educational efforts.

Board members are also seeking to fill their ranks after the recent resignation of Greg Sayre, who cited concerns about the authority's decision to allow West Virginia Recycling Services' employees to enter a building that had been previously closed because of safety issues.

He also questioned the company's business practices.

Russell suggested that anyone interested in serving on the board contact the agency at 304-342-4477.     

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at


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