The turnout for Ken Melamed's Diamond Jubilee Medal presentation Tuesday night was a simple and touching testament to the former mayor who dedicated 15 years of public service to Whistler.
For among those filling the audience were the people who know Melamed best: municipal staff who saw first-hand how hard he worked at his job, former political rivals and colleagues who may not share his political stripes but shared a passion for Whistler.
Two former municipal administrators — Jim Godfrey and Bill Barratt — also tipped their hats in recognition, as did other community members.
They all stood for a standing ovation when current Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden presented Melamed with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
He is one of 60,000 Canadians who will be honoured with the medal during the Queen's Jubilee year, marking 60 years on the throne. The Jubilee medal recognizes significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.
"It's really a great, great honour," said Melamed, after the medal was pinned to his left lapel. "I'm grateful. I ... achieved things that I never imagined I would be able to do. I certainly never imagined I would be the mayor."
He thanked council and municipal staff for putting his name forward.
Wilhelm-Morden outlined Melamed's contribution to the community in a short presentation.
His life of public service began as a councillor when he was elected in 1996. He was re-elected twice after that. Then in 2005 he ran for mayor and won twice.
He had some community convincing to do at the time. He was seen as the "green guy" with a narrow focus, the councillor who said "no" to everything, even the Olympics.
Melamed, however, convinced Whistler he could walk the middle road of mayor.
So convincing was he that he ran again in 2009, and won, shepherding Whistler not only through the lead up to the 2010 Games but during the Olympics too.
Wilhelm-Morden described him as a proud and gracious ambassador for the community during the Games, and every time a Canadian won a medal, Melamed would ring the bell outside municipal hall in recognition.
Councillor Jayson Faulkner, an old friend, recalled a biking trip to Moab, Utah with Melamed. There, with mountain bike trails calling, Melamed was found reading his council package, miles away from Whistler but still just as tuned in.
"His commitment was 110 per cent," said Faulkner.
Wilhelm-Morden also recalled his passion and dedication to public service, sitting side by side as councillors on two different terms.
"Ken was never afraid to state his mind and maintain his strong position on a matter," she said.
"I can personally attest to his hard work and his passion."
Still, Melamed said, there's a time for everything.
This year too marks a time for change. Not just a change to his political life, which ended with last November's election.
Now after 38 years patrolling on Whistler Mountain, a job he continued as a volunteer once a week while he was mayor, Melamed is hanging up his red jacket too.
But that, he said, is another story.
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