Pat Carleton’s legacy is ‘Whistler’ 

Retired coffee salesman, turned mayor of Whistler, passes away

As the first mayor of Whistler Pat Carleton began his term in office with little more than a wooden gavel and a piece of paper declaring Whistler a special resort municipality.

There were no buildings to speak of, no bylaws, no sewer system, no village, no skiing on Blackcomb Mountain. But there was a lot of hope and a vision for the future. Carleton wasn’t a politician. He was a coffee salesman by trade but he wanted to have a hand in shaping this brand new resort, which had become his retirement home.

"He had a love of the area and wanted to see it develop properly," said son Gordon Carleton. "It was a very special place for him."

Pat Carleton, who was Whistler’s mayor from 1975 to 1982, died in Chilliwack early Monday morning. He was 84.

William Patrick Carleton was born in Langley in 1920. As a young boy he played the trombone in the youth band of the Salvation Army and later as a band member in the Irish Fusiliers and the Royal Air Force auxiliaries. His future did not lie in the music business and Carleton found his path as a salesman, particularly in the coffee industry.

He was married in 1941 and had two children.

Then, almost 50 years ago, Carleton and his family began coming to Whistler. The beauty of the area and the plentiful fishing soon took hold of his heart and by 1960 he had bought a cabin at the end of Old Gravel Road on Alpha Lake. The family would brave the four or five hour Jeep ride from Vancouver for weekend visits and a few weeklong holidays during the summer.

And there were even some winter jaunts via the train where the conductor would make a special stop right in front of the family’s cabin to drop them off, sometimes into three of four feet of snow.

Of course, it helped having a neighbour who was also a train conductor, said Gordon.

By the time he was 52 Carleton decided to retire to his cabin in Whistler with his wife Kay. It was 1971. Carleton got involved in the local community, most notably in the Alta Lake Ratepayers Association and then later as president of the Chamber of Commerce.

But change was coming Whistler’s way.

In the spring of 1975 the provincial government introduced a special statute in the legislature known as the Resort Municipality of Whistler Act. The province was bent on turning what was a weekend ski hill into a ski resort and Whistler had to elect a mayor and council.


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