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Former Belvedere Councilmember Steve Block was active community volunteer

Updated: May 23

Steve Block, a former Belvedere councilmember and the city’s most recent Citizen of the Year Emeritus, died May 11 after a battle with prostate cancer. He was 62 years old.


Block, who lived in the city for nearly three decades, was elected to the City Council in November 2020 alongside James Lynch and incumbent Nancy Kemnitzer in a four-way race for three seats. However, he stepped down less than two years into the four-year term, in March 2022, after being diagnosed with cancer. He was serving as vice mayor at the time, in line for the mayorship.


Block was honored at this year’s annual town meeting as Belvedere’s 2023 Citizen of the Year Emeritus in recognition of his civic volunteer efforts. In addition to serving on the council, Block did pro-bono legal work for community nonprofits, led volunteer groups at Harvey’s Garden in Blackie’s Pasture and served as a Belvedere block captain.


Councilmember Sally Wilkinson, who served with Block, called him “one of my favorite councilmembers ever” and noted that even after stepping down from the board, he remained engaged in community life, frequently sharing his thoughts about local and county issues with her.


“To the last week, he was bouncing ideas, had opinions about things,” she said.


Block was born June 2, 1961, in Chicago, and grew up in Ohio with his two younger siblings, Greg and Jeff. His father, Jared Block, was a salesman, and his mother, Nadine Block, was a school psychologist and a lobbyist in the effort to end school corporal punishment, which was banned in Ohio in 2009.


After graduating from Cornell University, Block went on to law school at the University of Pennsylvania. He worked briefly as an associate attorney for Latham & Watkins in New York before taking over as the chief financial officer and general counsel of a home-textiles firm he helped found with his father in 1984.


He sold the company in 1998, the same year he moved to Belvedere. From there, Block led a small venture-capital firm focused on early-stage companies in technology and e-commerce. He then worked in carpentry for two years before retiring in 2004 to help raise his two sons, Declan, now 22, and Nat, now 23.


He married his wife, Dana Winn, in 2014. She described him as “a very smart man” who loved being outdoors, exercising, listening to music, playing the guitar, cooking and spending time with friends. The two frequently road biked around Marin and loved to sail together, taking multiple trips to the Caribbean.


Declan Block said he enjoyed family trips to Costa Rica, where they would fish, and remembers his father taking him to art museums in San Francisco, driving him to lacrosse games and watching movies with the family.


He said he often thought of his dad as the smartest person in the room, something he said he first noticed when his dad applied to serve on the board of the Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association, a role Block held from 2008 to 2012. Block helped start an audit committee during his time on the board.


“He was very driven,” Declan said.


In retirement, Block took and passed the California bar exam so he could do pro-bono legal work for Marin nonprofits, including 10,000 Degrees, an equity-focused scholarship provider and college success organization. Block helped students who had concerns regarding their immigration status, something he noted became more of a worry after the 2016 presidential election.


Block also volunteered at the San Rafael-based Canal Alliance, which offers legal services, education and career programs and social services to help Latino immigrants. He worked at the nonprofit’s legal clinics, helping Dreamers, or undocumented children born outside the U.S. who have lived in America for a significant portion of their lives, renew their immigration status. Block also took on individual clients with Marin Legal Aid, largely helping with housing and eviction issues.


In Belvedere, he also got involved with the city’s block captains program, in which volunteers help neighbors when first responders are stretched thin during an emergency or natural disaster, and was also on the board of the Belvedere Community Foundation.


In deciding to run for City Council in 2020, Block said he was motivated by a family history of community service.


“I’m committed to the public good,” he said in an October 2020 article in The Ark. “I don’t have any interest other than serving the city of Belvedere.”


Winn said Block really enjoyed being on the council.


“(He) used all of his skills to maneuver around and try to help the community out,” she said, adding that he was heartbroken when he had to resign after his cancer diagnosis.


Wilkinson said she had known Block a bit through the community but got to know him better when they became colleagues on the council. He was a “wonderful friend” and a “hardcore feminist,” she said.


“I absolutely knew that I was his equal, and I absolutely loved him for that,” she said.


Former Mayor and Councilmember James Campbell, who also served with Block and considered him a close friend, recalled that during Block’s City Council campaign, Block knocked on nearly every door in Belvedere to hear what people wanted to see in the city.


“He really hit the ground running,” Campbell said.


Among Block’s stand-out accomplishments during his short time on the council was overhauling many of the city’s lower boards, including creating a mission statement for each. He also worked to help restructure the city’s pension liability payments and served as the city’s representative on the Richardson Bay Regional Agency board, Campbell said.


Campbell noted that not only was Block one of the most intelligent people he has known, but he was also a great friend with a big heart.


“Mostly what I really loved about Steve was he was the kind of friend who would call you not because he had a question to ask or because he had something to tell you, he would just call you to ask, ‘How you are doing?’” Campbell said.


Campbell, who was named the 2023 Citizen of the Year, said the Citizen Emeritus recognition meant a lot to Block after decades of living in the community.


“I think what was really wonderful was how deeply touched he was to be given that award,” Campbell said. “It really brought a lot of light and brightness into his life at the end.”


In addition to Winn and his two sons, Block is survived by his mother, Nadine, and his brother Jeff. His father, Jared, and his brother Greg predeceased him. A memorial and celebration of life was held on May 16.


Reach Belvedere, Strawberry and public-safety reporter Naomi Friedland at 415-944-4627.


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