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Former Senate aide, lobbyist Christopher Smith dies

Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith

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.


  1. So Sad. No better man ever walked the halls of our state capitol. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and children. Rest in peace my friend.

  2. Chrsitopher was one of most compassionate people I ever met and his devotion to the cause of liberty was unsurpassed. I will miss him greatly.

  3. This is really sad. Saw Chris not too long ago over at the Goldwater Institute. Known him since he first went to work at the Senate in 1989. A truly good guy. Our prayers also go out to his family. May God Grant him eternal memory.

  4. I was so sad when I heard about Chris, what a wonderful person, full of love and caring and compassion. I remember one night when I was invited to my friends house in Ocean City for their christmas Party, I was helping to clean up after we had eaten, I started washing the dishes and Chris came over and said to me I’ll dry the dishes, for you mrs. Snow. We had a good time talking about when my children and he where in high school together. Chris, was such a niec guy, I’ll NEVER forget him. Rest In Peace, Chris. Love Mrs. Snow

  5. One of the brightest and most competent men I’ve ever met. While we may never know all of the details, we can remember the many positive and constructive aspects of his all too short life.

  6. Friendly, approachable, kind-hearted, sincere, loving, and a great conversationalist. I will miss our summer rides together on the boardwalk of OCNJ.

  7. Rest in piece Christopher..may God be kind to your family. Endless summers at 28th street beach won’t be the same without you but they will go on with rememberances of you. Take care my friend.


  8. I only knew Christopher for a short time, but felt the brightness, the love, that others are talking about. I am honored to have been his friend, and I send my sympathies to his family.

  9. Jennifer scottodicarlo

    I miss our roof top talks.

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