The Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce named Andy Bruns as its new executive director on June 4. Bruns will replace Christopher Finley who resigned in March to take a position with LewisGale Regional Health System.
“The chamber will be in excellent hands with Andy at the helm,” said Zach Wimmer, chairman of the SMLRCC board of directors. “He has extensive leadership experience having spearheaded marketing and media organizations across the country for decades.”
Bruns was most recently a regional publisher for Lee Enterprises where he was responsible for publications that included The Roanoke Times, Lynchburg News & Advance, Laker Weekly, Laker Magazine and properties in Danville and Martinsville.
“The skill sets needed for the chamber role match up very nicely with what I have done over the years,” Bruns said, who will take over from interim executive director Cheryl Ward on July 1. “Executing the mission of the SMLRCC will be vital to the region in these post-COVID years, as we take advantage of opportunities and avoid pitfalls the pandemic has created.”
Bruns, who earned a degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University in 1986, began his career in sales near his hometown in central Illinois. His career has included management roles with media companies in Wisconsin, California, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. He has served on multiple nonprofit and chamber of commerce boards over the years in a variety of locations.
Bruns said he and his family — wife, Jackie, son Parker and daughter Kiersten — have been vacationing at Smith Mountain Lake since 2016 and bought their first property in 2018 at Bernard’s Landing. They found their “forever home” on the Bedford side of the lake in 2019, moving to SML full time in April 2020.
“The fact that this position opened up in the place where I want to spend the rest of my life seemed almost too good to be true,” Bruns said. “I’m extremely excited to see what strides can be made for the lake region working together with the talented staff, board, volunteers and members of the SML Regional Chamber.”
Wimmer said he and the board expressed tremendous gratitude for Ward, who also served as interim director when Vicki Gardner stepped down in October 2019.
“Cheryl has been, and continues to be, a mission-critical asset to our organization,” Wimmer said. “We cannot thank her enough for what she continually brings to the table for the chamber.”