If there was a knock against Jeff Murl when he ran for council in Whistler’s 2018 municipal election, it was his relative lack of experience. Four years later, and that shouldn’t be an issue for the 42-year-old business owner, accountant and ski instructor.
“I left the campaign knowing I wanted to run again,” he said. “I spent the last four years doing everything I could to make it easier to elect me, I think.”
That led the father of two to donate his time to several local organizations, including serving on the board of Arts Whistler, working on the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) board of variance, becoming a library trustee, and joining the Whistler Community Foundation’s finance committee.
After placing eighth in voting in 2018, Murl specifically looked to build a diversity of experience heading into his second run at council, working with organizations “in my blindspots,” he said. At Arts Whistler, he learned about the breadth of cultural offerings in town and the barriers facing local artists. At the library, he learned about Whistler’s community hub and the programs they offer to the resort’s most vulnerable. At the board of variance, he gained a better understanding of the decidedly unsexy behind-the-scenes work that goes into building approvals here. And at the community foundation, he got a high-level overview of the many pressures bearing down on Whistler.
“There are so many aspects to being involved in the community that you have to be well-rounded,” he noted.
A self-described fiscal conservative with his own accounting practice, Murl wants to bring his financial acumen to municipal hall, which he sees being as much about prudent spending as it is ensuring the right messaging makes it to the public.
“I want to make sure we’re not just spending freely, and I don’t think [the RMOW does]. They make prudent investments with a lot of information behind them. I think where organizations … can fail is often in how they articulate that to the public or to their stakeholders,” he said.
“People don’t want to show that they don’t know what they’re talking about, and so they gloss over the finances … So if I can educate a few people on how to read the numbers better, then that will help when they’re working in the community and helping disseminate what I think is an important thing: financial information. So could the muni do a better job at that? I think everybody could.”
Though he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as “just a finance guy,” Murl can’t help but apply a financial lens to Whistler’s biggest challenges. On the environmental file, for instance, the accountant believes the resort should view the longstanding effort to meet its climate and emission targets—which it is not on pace to meet—as a financial problem, first and foremost.
“The carbon tax is one of those things I’m a big proponent for because it takes a financial measure and creates incentives and disincentives on an environmental [issue],” he said. “So how do you incentivize people locally to work towards the goal you’re trying to create? And also disincentivize the bad behaviour that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions?”
Murl tends to be a big-picture thinker, looking not just at the immediate issues at hand, but the long-term sustainability of the community.
“Those are hard decisions to make, because you can piss off people in the short term when they’re all staring at what’s in front of their face. But a good leader makes hard decisions that affect the next 20, 30, 40 years,” he explained. “I don’t know what those things are until I get into the nitty-gritty of everything, but I’m happy to make those decisions. I have a fairly thick skin and I’m prepared to make those investments for the future generations.”
You can follow Murl’s campaign on Facebook, @JeffMurlWhistler.
The nomination period closes Sept. 9. Whistlerites head to the polls on Oct. 15.