The Capitol community is mourning the sudden death of a 27-year-old legislative aide who worked his way up from serving drinks at the Chicory coffee shop to managing bills in the office of former Sen. Mark DeSaulnier.
Kyle Long died on Saturday from unknown causes, his mother said. He collapsed while working out at a West Sacramento gym, and the family has not yet received the results of an autopsy.
“He had started a diet and exercise program, like so many people do after Christmas,” said Long’s mother, Tina Long.
“He took me to work that morning and … three hours later I get a call from the gym that he fainted and I needed to go to the hospital. We went there and were told the horrible news.”
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Long’s co-workers and bosses remembered him as an effervescent and ambitious man who landed a job in the Legislature after getting to know Capitol staffers who frequented the coffee shop where he worked while he was a student at California State University, Sacramento.
“He knew a lot of people not by name, but rather by their drink orders,” Senate leader Kevin de León said in a memorial tribute to Long on the Senate floor.
“He took his (customer-service) skill set from Chicory, and took it across the street to the Capitol. And he used that skill set engaging with so many different types of folks.”
Long was so friendly, de León said, that his office nickname was “Sunshine.”
DeSaulnier said Long was “a wonderful human being” with a joyful approach to life.
“He used to answer the phone, ‘Good morning … it’s a great day in Sen. DeSaulnier’s office. How may I help you?’ ” DeSaulnier said.
In addition to being friendly, Long was “very, very competent” in helping with legislation, DeSaulnier said. Long was instrumental in DeSaulnier’s success last year in passing a bill to increase disclosure of pesticides used in public schools, he said.
“I’d done (the bill) three or four times until he worked the bill and got it to the governor’s desk and it was signed,” DeSaulnier said. “It’s really hard to comprehend how somebody that young, but also so talented and just a joyful spirit, died so young and leaves so early.”
Rosanna Carvacho, now a lobbyist, worked for DeSaulnier when she got to know Long on her daily coffee runs.
“He was always incredibly happy. Anyone who came in contact with him, you just were drawn to him. He had such a wonderful personality,” Carvacho said.
Eventually Long started asking her about how he could get an internship in the Legislature, and she welcomed him to her office as a part-time intern. While he was finishing up his degree, Carvacho said, Long worked mornings at Chicory and afternoons in the Legislature, and went to class at night.
“He was a really hard worker,” Carvacho said. “He was working his butt off all the way through college.”
Long graduated from college in 2012 and had worked in the Legislature ever since.
“He loved it there. He loved all the people, he loved his job and what he did,” said Long’s sister Nichole Long, 26.
Long was born and raised in Sacramento and graduated from Sheldon High School in 2005.
A funeral will be held on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Bethany Presbyterian Church, 5625 24th St., Sacramento, CA 95822.
Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.