I just received some bad news - along with anyone else who subscribes to Capitol Weekly email alerts. But this isn't about the budget or stupid political posturing or policy initiatives or anything so inconsequential.
Long time Capitol staffer Will Smith died suddenly while playing basketball at a local church.
He was 41.
He was also one of the absolute best people who did, or probably ever has, worked in the Capitol.
Our politics couldn't be farther apart. Will was the chief of staff to George Runner - pretty much as conservative as they come. I doubt Runner (either Runner, for that matter) and any of my legislator bosses ever cast the same vote on measure.
Will was on the Assembly Fellow selection committee when I interviewed for the program. And, as often happens in my life, I'm pretty sure he's the one who argued hardest for my selection as a Fellow. I wasn't really Democratic enough on my own (the taint of CMC and the Rose!). I didn't necessarily fit the categories the right way. But even before I really knew him, or before he knew me, he championed me and I don't think I can ever be grateful enough.
Even past my fellowship year, however, I saw Will often. He was a mentor to one of my best friends - the fellow in George Runner's office. I saw Will whenever I was in the Capitol. We could joke about our political differences in a way that I didn't seem to get to do much after college. He was one of a rare few who could duke it out of policy and still genuinely appreciate the other side, the people, the motivations to be there, working on problems. He got it and not enough people do.
Will was a man of great faith. That should comfort his friends and family right now - but I always find that comfort slow to arrive for me. He was so dedicate to his church, his faith, and most of all his family - his wife Anissa and their gorgeous children. I last saw them all at Cober's wedding. Will was always happy to see you. I mean, the guy was never in a bad mood. I don't know how he did it.
It's probably foolish of me to be so emotional over this. But I can't chalk it up to hormones or pregnancy exactly either. But I can attribute it in part to being keenly aware of life and family right now. Of the awesome implications of bearing a child and the sudden rush of mortality. Of realizing how lonely and difficult it would be to try to do this without a partner.
Will Smith was a great man. He will be missed by those who knew him. He should be missed by every Californian - if everyone in the Capitol had his purpose, smarts, and kindness, we'd get a lot more done.
My heart goes out to his family and those who were far closer to him than I.
You will be missed, Will. You made a difference.