Former Senate aide, lobbyist Christopher Smith dies
Published: December 20, 2010 at 6:31 pm
Christopher Smith, a former Senate staff member and Capitol lobbyist, died Dec. 18. He was found with gunshot wounds inside a vehicle near 18th Avenue and Buckeye Road in Phoenix. He was 51 years old.
Smith most recently worked as a lobbyist for Cox Communications and chaired the public policy committee of the Arizona Technology Council. He also served as chief of staff to Brenda Burns during her tenure as Senate president
Smith grew up in Ocean City, N.J., where he met his wife of 22 years, Vanessa Bertini. Smith and Bertini took their three daughters there for vacation every summer.
Bertini said the two grew up together, and described Smith as an outdoor enthusiast and lover of nature. She said Smith was an avid surfer, long-distance runner and road cyclist.
Smith attended Northern Arizona University, where he earned a degree in civil engineering in 1984. He began his career mapping unknown parts of the Colombian jungle, which led to a love of international travel.
Smith returned to school in 1989, earning an MBA from Arizona State University in 1991. He served as a top Senate staffer, then as director of the government watchdog group, the Goldwater Institute, before becoming a lobbyist for Cox and a member of the Technology Council.
One co-worker at Cox, who asked not to be named, said the entire office was in shock after hearing of his unexpected death.
Steve Zylstra, who joined the Arizona Technology Council while Smith was in charge of the council’s recruiting, said there were two qualities that anyone who met Smith immediately saw.
“First: his intellect,” Zylstra said. “He was very smart, particularly about public policy. Second: He was so personable, so approachable and one of the most friendly guys you have ever met.”
Smith kept shoulder-length hair, which Zylstra said gave him a youthful appearance and harkened to his days growing up on the beach in New Jersey.
Bob Rosenberg and Ron Schott, who also served on the Arizona Technology Council, both said they never met anyone who didn’t like Smith.
“Everybody who knew him liked him,” Schott said.
Schott said Smith was devoted to his family and his faith, recalling a time when Smith showed up to a council meeting with a beard that he had grown for a role in a church play.
Smith is survived by his wife and three daughters, Roxanne, Sophia and Isabella.