The surviving victim of the shooting Wednesday morning at Smith Mountain Lake is Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Gardner, 61, was shot while being interviewed about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the reservoir and recreational area about an hour’s drive southeast of Roanoke. Television reporter Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, a cameraman, videographer and photographer, were killed in the attack.
Gardner underwent surgery Wednesday at Roanoke Memorial Hospital and was in stable condition, according to chamber officials. The Roanoke Times reported that she had been shot in the back.
“She has suffered some internal damage, but she’s stabilized right now, and it looks good,” said Jessica Gauldin, vice chairman of the chamber of commerce, who was in the hospital with Gardner’s family and friends.
Gardner grew up in Union Springs, N.Y., according to her Facebook profile. She lives in Moneta, Va. with her husband Tim, who owns a local home inspection company.
Gardner has led the chamber for 13 years, working in what friends say is her typically upbeat manner to bring more tourists to a bucolic region that includes 500 miles of shoreline and rolling green hills.
“She’s just a dynamic leader,” said Troy Keaton, pastor of a local church and chairman of the chamber’s board of directors.
“`Life is good and getting better’ — that’s kind of how I describe Vicki,” Keaton said.
As executive director of the chamber, Gardner has worked passionately to lift up local businesses, helping several to weather the negative effects of the 2008 recession, Keaton said.
Last year, she spearheaded an effort to convince officials in Richmond to redraw boundaries around Virginia’s tourism districts so the Smith Mountain Lake area would be included in a single district. Previously, the area had been split between Franklin and Bedford counties, which led to Smith Mountain Lake being misrepresented on state tourist maps, Keaton said.
The reservoir was created in the 1960s with the construction of the Smith Mountain Dam. The area has become a popular vacation spot for fishing and boating.
Gardner’s work this year has included an effort to bring an unmanned Amtrak train stop to the area that would allow easier access to the lake region for passengers from New York or Philadelphia, Keaton said.
“She’s the all-star of the lake,” Gauldin said.
Wednesday’s interview with a local CBS television affiliate was part of a series of promotional events planned by Gardner to get locals excited about next year’s 50th anniversary celebration, Gauldin said.
In the CBS station’s video of the interview, which captured the shooting, Gardner praised the “moderate climate” and “excellent conditions” of the lake community.
“This is our community,” Gardner says in the video. “We want to come together. We want to share information that can help us grow and develop, to provide a better experience.”
State Sen. William Stanley (R-Franklin), whose law office is a mile-and-a-half from the site of the shooting, said Gardner’s comments in the interview were typical of her upbeat personality.
“Vicki was doing what Vicki does best, which is touting the benefits of the lake,” Stanley said. “Showcasing the lake in all its goodness – it’s hard to believe that that would happen.”
In the hours after the shooting, residents of the tight-knit communities that surround the reservoir posted signs and impromptu memorials calling for prayers on behalf of Gardner and the other victims, Alison Parker and Adam Ward.
“It’s amazing, the support the community is showing,” Gauldin said.