SML Democrats

Shown are members of SML Democrats at their ribbon cutting for an expanded headquarters.

The Smith Mountain Lake Democrats have been hard on the campaign trail recently for their Democratic candidates in what many consider to be one of the most important election seasons this nation has faced.

This past week, they celebrated the expansion of their headquarters, combining it with an empty suite that was vacated and renovating it to hold more members. SML Democrats President Denise Tuttle said the expansion will help seat more members and has described the membership increase as “exploding” in the past two to three years. 

“Sometime last fall when we had our monthly meeting, we had 60 chairs set up, the doors were open and people were standing outside listening to our speaker because we couldn’t fit them all in here,” Tuttle said.

The renovation also includes a kitchenette, small meeting room, daily operations office and more storage space. The renovation was done entirely by members of the SML Democrats, and the lead in the construction was Julie Cox, who worked Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the project. The project began about three weeks before the pandemic hit, and although she was alone for the first couple of months once the shutdown began, Cox was quick to point out that the renovations ended up being a complete team effort later on.

She noted that they had members come in to help paint, such as her wife and vice-president of SML Democrats Nancy Cox, who did the specialty painting. They also had a retired electrical engineer from the military help her with electrical work. Other members who helped with the renovations were Doug Stevens, Greg Tuttle, David and Carol Rickerson, Mattie Cassidy, Elaine Gruttemeyer, Ingrid Grout, Alice and Glen Prather, and Tom Tavino.

“They were the people that came in and helped with anything from electrical to painting to finishing dry wall, and other things,” Julie Cox said. “If I didn’t have them for all the other little things that I didn’t do, it wouldn’t have been as beautiful and perfect as it is.”

The renovations have expanded the headquarters from just under 500 square feet of usable access to more than 900 square feet, according to Julie Cox. Once the pandemic resides and life has returned to normal, the new improved headquarters will be able to seat double the capacity.

The SML Democrats meet on the fourth Monday of each month at their headquarters at 1 p.m., which is located at 16483 Moneta Road. On the third meetings, the club meets at 7 p.m. Tuttle said the club is welcoming to anyone of interest and talked about what the main purposes for the club were.

“Our purpose for the club is three-fold: to educate our members, to give our members an opportunity to socialize with people of like mind, and to support Democratic candidates in a campaign season,” she said.

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