Thurston County political activist and alternative-energy advocate Sam Garst died Wednesday after a long struggle with lung cancer. The active Democrat and his wife, Christine Garst, lived in one of the county’s first carbon-neutral homes, which was equipped with more than 50 solar panels.
“Goodbye my love - we're going to miss you,” Christine Garst wrote on her Facebook page on Thursday. She added that her husband had been ill since May but more so in the past three weeks.
Sam Garst, 63, made the news in 2006 when he became the top signature gatherer for Initiative 937, the measure that set alternative energy requirements for Washington utilities.
“We have lost a leader, a mentor, a trusted advisor, a statesman, a person with great integrity and a man some were lucky to consider a friend. Peace to you Sam,” wrote Thurston County Assessor Steven Drew in a post on Garst’s page.
Marc Krasnowsky, spokesman for the Northwest Energy Coalition, said in an email that Garst had received the group’s Headwaters Award last year – in recognition of his work including I-937, which voters approved.
As reporter John Dodge reported in The Olympian that year, Garst collected more than 3,200 of the measure’s roughly 300,000 voter signatures:
Garst, a retired businessman and citizen activist who moved to Olympia from Minnesota two years ago, has been a fixture at South Sound public events and shopping malls since March, urging people to sign the initiative, which would require the state's larger utilities to boost their supply of renewable energy 15 percent by 2020. He also organized a group of 95 citizen volunteers in Thurston County who secured more than 17,000 signatures in support of the initiative.Garst also served on the board of the Washington State Parks Foundation as secretary, had been its chairman and worked professionally as a financial consultant.
"I always took the worst shifts, " said Garst, 56. … "You gotta ask everybody to sign - don't assume they have signed already, " he said.