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      Sponseller's death takes toll on local professionals

      COLUMBIA (WACH) - The death of Tom Sponseller was shocking to many people throughout the Midlands and around the state. Through his work as a lobbyist and CEO, Sponseller made a lasting impression on people.

      The former South Carolina Hospitality Association chief was well-known inside the Statehouse as a tireless lobbyist for the hotel and restaurant industry.

      State lawmaker Todd Rutherford knew Sponseller for the past 12 years. Their relationship grew while working on a smoking ban that they did not agree on initially.

      â??He and I came together and we worked on it and he'd stand outside on the patio and smoke and talk to me about how to make it happen so that we could ban smoking in restaurants and bars.â?? said Rutherford.

      Columbia restaurant owner Bill Dukes also expressed his concern for the Sponseller family.

      "Everybody needs to calm down and respect Tom's family," said Dukes in an email statement. "He was a friend and I'm not going to make any knee-jerk decisions until I know what's going on."

      Those who knew him best say Sponseller was a dedicated leader that made an impact in the world of hospitality.