The Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce named a communications professional as its new executive director.

Christopher Finley, who currently serves as communications manager for BAE Systems in Radford, will take the reins of the business group in late October, the chamber announced Tuesday.

Finley replaces longtime executive director Vicki Gardner, who served in the role for 17 years.

Gardner had planned to step down in August, but ultimately left her post in July due to health complications from the injuries she sustained in the August 2015 shooting at Bridgewater Plaza that left WDBJ journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward dead.

Smith Mountain Lake is familiar territory for Finley. He worked for more than a decade in marketing at The Willard Cos. and also served on the chamber’s board of directors from 2011 to 2013, according to a news release.

“I’m very excited about returning to Smith Mountain Lake and for the opportunity to drive tourism and grow business for the Chamber’s members and the community,” Finley said in a statement.

During his tenure at The Willard Cos., Finley said, he launched multi-media marketing campaigns to promote the lake as a desirable place to vacation and relocate. He also organized community events, like SML Oktoberfest and a tree-lighting at Westlake Towne Center.

“I’ll leverage those experiences to oversee the successful operation of the SMLRCC while enhancing programs, organizing events, driving membership, and managing staff,” Finley said in an email.

Finley has already identified a number of priorities for the chamber, such as focusing on organizational staffing needs, launching a rebranded destination marketing campaign and developing a five-year strategic plan.

Currently, Finley serves as a member of the board of directors for the Radford Chamber of Commerce.

Additionally, he has worked as an adjunct professor in Radford University’s School of Communications.

Lindsey Coley, chair of the Smith Mountain Lake chamber’s board of directors, expressed enthusiasm about Finley’s hiring.

“His marketing and public relations expertise, leadership experience and comprehensive knowledge of the Smith Mountain Lake region makes him a perfect fit,” Coley said in a statement.

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