Senate staffer Will Smith dies of apparent heart attack

Will Smith, chief of staff to state Sen. George Runner, died unexpectedly while playing basketball at a local church. He was 41.

Smith had just finished coaching his daughter’s basketball game at the Riverside Wesleyan Church Monday night and had stayed around to play a pickup game when he was stricken. His family was not present when he collapsed.

Runner said Smith never regained consciousness. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful and he was taken to Sutter Hospital in East Sacramento.

Smith had worked for the Runners since George runner was first elected to the Assembly in 1996. He worked briefly for Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, before returning to George Runner’s staff when the latter was elected to the Senate.

“He was an incredibly loyal guy. Loyal to his friends, loyal to his conservative convictions and loyal to his faith,” George Runner said. “There are many, many people in this building who have been mentored by Will Smith.”

“He wasn’t like family, he was family,” said Russell Lowery, chief of staff to the Senate Republican Caucus. “I wouldn’t feel any different if my own brother died.”

Smith is survived by his wife, Anissa, and their four children. Funeral services were pending.

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