Charlene Sturbitts was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 16, 1950 and grew up in Washington, D.C. Her father was employed on the overt side of the CIA. She attended private schools, and Sweet Briar College. She worked on a volunteer basis 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, Sturbitts was asked by George Mitchell to join his staff working on environmental issues.
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Nicoll, Don, "Sturbitts, Charlene oral history interview" (2002). Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection. 381.