SML Center Board Member Bios

Vicki Gardner, President

Gardner moved to SML with husband Tim in 1986 and quickly immersed herself in the community through church, boards, events, and business. After years of working as a regional and national marketing director, she served as Executive Director at the SML Regional Chamber of Commerce for 17 years. Her survival of wounds suffered during the tragic shooting of two broadcasts journalists outside her office in August of 2015 became a catalyst for renewing the effort to create a community center here, and she formed Smith Mountain Lake Center, Inc. a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a venue for entertainment, events and education at SML.

John Emery, Vice President

Emery currently serves as CEO of Alpine-X, the leading developer of year-round snow sports resorts. He is an experienced international consumer-sector executive and the Managing Member of Stone Circle Holdings, a privately held company focused primarily on lifestyle real estate-related investment opportunities. Emery previously served as CEO of Great Wolf Resorts, Inc. a family entertainment resort company, where he led the company’s expansion to a nationally recognized brand and IPO. He has also served as president of Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Inc., a global independent hotel management company with more than 400 hotels. Emery is a graduate of Virginia Tech and frequent guest lecturer at several universities. He has owned a home at Smith Mountain Lake since 1993 and is an active investor in lake commercial and residential real estate.  

Kathy Hodges, Secretary

Hodges is the Executive Director of Workforce Development for Franklin County, and her 17 years in that capacity has deepened her passion for Smith Mountain Lake and its abundant beauty and joys. While supervising operations of The Franklin Center, she’s realized the need for a venue for education, entertainment, events and social gatherings nearer to the SML that will even further enhance the area’s year-round offerings. Hodges serves as the Secretary for the SML Center, Inc.

Marty Bowers, Treasurer

Bowers, whose background in accounting and business management has served many lake-area non-profits, brings a wealth of knowledge and to the board. She and husband Bert retired to SML in 1995 from Northern Virginia where her postings included the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon and the Mitre Corporation, where she worked on the Federal Telephone System 2000. After retiring, Bowers became involved in Bedford County’s Overlay planning effort, the SML Charity Home Tour, Bethlehem United Methodist Church, SML Newcomers, Smith Mountain Arts Council, Friends of the SML/Moneta Library and the SML Center. She says: “My involvement with so many lake organizations has fueled a desire to help establish a multi-use center that will help all of them better serve the SML Community.”


Greg Beecher

Beecher is truly a life-long learner. As a child, he created art classes, neighborhood plays with friends, and fundraising events for charities. This passion and work continued up to and through college and has been a constant during his 28 years of higher education and non-profit experience. After 19 years as a Roanoke County resident, Beecher and his family relocated to the Boones Mill area in 2021 and quickly found a connection with the mission of the SML Center. As a former HR Director and now Director of Talent Development for Virginia Tech, Beecher understands the value of life-long learning and is providing leadership to the educational programs that are destined to improve the future and well-being of all students, regardless of age.

Trish England 

England and her late husband moved from Delaware to the Smith Mountain Lake in 2007 to settle in a location that would be a magnet for family visits. Over the years she has been a member of various lake organizations, including the American Association of University Women, 100+ Women Who Care and the SheDoos. England is an architect with experience in all building types. She owned her own business for 15 years, principally designing minor league baseball stadiums until retiring at SML. When she became aware of plans to develop a community center, England contacted the Board to offer pro bono services for preliminary design and cost estimating. She joined the Board in 2016 and chairs the Design and Construction Committee.

Tim Gardner

Gardner owns Inspecx Inspection Services, LLC and is a licensed contractor.His career in forensic engineering brought him and his wife Vicki, along with two young daughters, to SML in 1986. Gardner served in the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, is a degreed Marine Nuclear Engineer, and earned an MBA while living in Houston, TX.Gardner invested his free time to the community as a softball coach and with the Antique and Classic Boat Society. He was also known as the unofficial “Chamber-in-Law” to the SML Regional Chamber of Commerce during the 17 years his wife served as Executive Director of that organization. He chaired the SML Wine Festival for many years. Gardner brings his years of engineering and business experience to the SML Center, Inc.

Jerry Hale 

Hale vacationed at SML for 18 years before moving here full time in 2003. He immediately engaged in a wide variety of activities, including musical and theatrical productions that all struggled to find suitable venues. He was deeply involved in planning and coordinating scores of activities as part of SML’s 50th anniversary in 2016. His experience as a marketing executive for DuPont for 35 years is providing critical guidance for the SML Center’s communications efforts, and his passion for living here adds energy to the project. 

Matt Karris 

Karris lived in Manhattan, N.Y., for most of his life but now makes Smith Mountain Lake his permanent home. Karris is a proud member of Actors Equity Association (AEA) and an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers union (SDC). He is an award-winning musical theater director, professionally taught all levels of acting and musical theater for more than 30 years, and today many of his students can be seen on Broadway, national television and in feature films. Karris is utilizing his career experience to help cultivate the drama performance and arts education scene at Smith Mountain Lake. His experience will also help guide design and equipping of the performance-related spaces at the SML Center. 

Troy Keaton

Keaton is the founding pastor of EastLake Community Church at Smith Mountain Lake. He and his wife Janel and their family moved to SML in 2005. EastLake is a rapidly growing, diverse ministry committed to investing in the community. EastLake also includes Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy, which is a pre-K through 12th grade school with more than 500 students. Since joining the lake family, Keaton has been an active part of the community. He served a three-year term on the board of directors for the SML Regional Chamber of Commerce, including the role of president in 2015. It was this relationship that motivated his involvement in the SML Center project, and he has served as a board member since its founding. In his spare time, Keaton enjoys playing golf, fishing, writing and DIY projects.

Laura Moritz

Moritz knew immediately upon transplanting to Smith Mountain Lake that she wanted to serve the community. In 2016, she became Membership Director at the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce and, subsequently, the Chamber’s Community Relations and Marketing Director. Moritz previously held leadership positions that included Director of Operations for an upscale retail chain, Training and Development Consultant for national clients such as Party City and Hudson Group, and owner and founder of a conference planning business that caters to state associations of nurse anesthesiologists. Moritz is currently the Director of Development at Mariners Landing Country Club.

Jack Phillips

Phillips is a retired engineer who has lived at the lake operating Bedford Landings Bed & Breakfast for the past 10 years. Prior to moving to SML, he designed products ranging from jet fighter aircraft to cell phones to medical devices, earning 25 U.S. patents and numerous foreign ones along the way. He is a certified flight instructor and teaches seaplane flying at SML Aviation. He is also a licensed REALTOR® and is currently board chairman of the SML Regional Chamber of Commerce.  In his spare time, Phillips enjoys building and flying airplanes and is currently building a wooden sailboat.

James Tarantino 

Tarantino moved from New England to Smith Mountain Lake in 1997 with his late wife Michele to be closer to her family. The country setting surrounding a beautiful lake was where the couple planned to live out their retirement. After careers in both radio broadcasting and software development, Tarantino became active with the Lake Players and the Smith Mountain Arts Council. “Planning performances here always begins with the hurdle of finding a suitable location for the event,” he noted. He is lending his energy and organizational skills to several aspects of the venue’s acquisition, refitting and, in time, operation.  

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