Whistler voters stuck with the tried and true candidates when they went to the polls Nov. 20, re-electing Mayor Hugh O’Reilly and all five of the current councillors who sought re-election.
Lawyer Nick Davies was the sixth councillor elected, and will be the only new face when the new council is sworn in on Dec. 6. Davies will replace Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, who did not seek re-election.
"I’m ecstatic," O’Reilly said this week. "It’s a tremendous vote of confidence."
O’Reilly was challenged for the mayor’s job by Al Hurwitz and Chris Childs, while the five councillors seeking re-election faced 12 other challengers for council seats. All the incumbents were clear winners, with Kristi Wells topping the polls with 1,423 votes. Davies earned the sixth and final council seat with 1,059 votes, 300 more than seventh place finisher Stephane Perron.
"I had a clear lead over the next challenger, which makes me think I have a clear mandate," said Davies.
Davies was surprised all the incumbents were re-elected, saying he expected at least one to be defeated, although he didn’t have anyone in particular in mind.
"I guess it shows you can’t generally believe the buzz you hear around town," Davies said. "Because the buzz was there was a lot of discontentment. But with the (low) voter turnout and all the incumbents re-elected, I guess people weren’t discontent."
He said the message from the community seems to be they are by and large satisfied with the current council. He added the election results should provide a high level of continuity to plans and policies the present council has established.
O’Reilly said the number of candidates for council and some of the rhetoric during the election was recognition council has "tackled some tough issues" in the last three years.
"We’ve annoyed some people... but we’ve learned some lessons. It’s a vote of confidence, we’re on the right track.
"We can start to implement some of the building blocks we’ve been working on."
O’Reilly admitted the next council has to do more in the way of communicating with voters, particularly Lower Mainland voters.
"I’d hate to see that as a festering wound," he said of the disenchantment some Lower Mainland voters and candidates felt. "They’re an important part of Whistler. I think of them as Whistler people who don’t spend as much time here as they would like."
O’Reilly predicted the tourist accommodation issue, which was at the heart of many voters’ discontent, will be reviewed by the new council. Davies said he hopes to re-address the TA issue, too.
"I don’t like the idea of hotels on the hill, residents in neighbourhoods and nothing in between," Davies said. "I think it creates a sterile town over several years.
"I learned a lot about that issue during the election. There are several types of tourist accommodation."
Davies suggested people who want to rent their home out for a week or two a year should be allowed to do so, but a commercial chalet operation is a much different thing.
"There seemed to be a lot of dissatisfaction with the Olympic bid during the election, but Hugh O’Reilly gave a satisfactory answer at the all-candidates meeting," Davies said. "It appears there is a plan to inform the community as the bid goes along. So I have to wonder if the problem isn’t a lack of information."
Davies said one area that still concerns him is the amount of money the municipality has spent on legal fees and how the municipality’s legal affairs are handled.
"I’ll have to see," he said.
"But I think I’ll be able to work with this council. They’ve all been very encouraging."
O’Reilly said there is a lot of work to do over the next three years, and one of the first orders of business will be to adopt the Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy, to give the school board an opportunity to move forward with the new elementary school.
Once the CDS is finalized municipal staff will be free to work on other things, O’Reilly added.
The long-term financial plan and capital plan will be a priority in the new year.
"Once we adopt that, we’ll have three volumes and the community will be able to see five years ahead what’s on our list. It will be updated every year and the community will have an opportunity to review it and understand what our priorities are, or suggest changes."
O’Reilly added he would be reluctant to go ahead with the Emerald Estates sewer connections without provincial funding in place. However, he suggested the federal-provincial infrastructure program may be started again and there may be federal and provincial money for the sewer.