When considering a go at local politics, Jessie Morden couldn’t help but look to the example set by her mom, former Whistler Mayor and four-term councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. Through much of her life, she saw first-hand just how much work goes into serving the community—the 400-page council packages, the interminable council meetings, the steady stream of criticism that goes hand in hand with being an elected official. And it still wasn’t enough to dissuade her from vying for a council seat in Whistler’s upcoming election.
“That definitely played a factor in all of it, and that had me flip-flopping one way or another, being in the public eye and seeing what my mom went through,” said Morden. “But my mom is very resilient, and I think I inherited that trait as well. I can let things roll off my shoulder after I process them. I’m a very resilient person and I can put that stuff behind me, move forward and still do the work.”
The 34-year-old legal administrative assistant is a born-and-bred Whistlerite, which she believes would give her a unique outlook at the council table if elected this October.
“I’ve played in the parks here. I went to schools here. I’ve biked on the Valley Trail. I’ve taken the bus to go to work. I’ve worked in the hospitality industry here,” Morden said. “I’ve grown up in Whistler and I think that adds a nice perspective to the mix. I love my community and now as a new mom, I want to provide those same experiences to my daughter—and I want that same opportunity for young families.”
While light on specifics, Morden said her platform centres on three core issues: housing, affordability and transportation. On the housing front, she said she’d like to build on the work already being done at the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA).
“In regards to affordable housing, it’s not necessarily having new ideas, it’s just going along with things that we’ve seen have already worked, such as the WHA and that goal of having 75 per cent of the workforce being housed in Whistler,” she explained. “I think we need to stick to those parameters and goals and build more employee-restricted housing at every opportunity.”
When asked about addressing unaffordability, Morden credited the Resort Municipality of Whistler for its Balance Model Initiative, which aims to consider the implications of future growth and devise strategies to better achieve Whistler’s community goals.
“I think that’s a very good piece to work off of,” she said.
Morden is also in favour of increasing passenger rail service to the resort, using existing infrastructure, as one way to mitigate vehicle traffic on the Sea to Sky Highway.
“I think we should do a deep dive into … making the passenger train available again, and I think the 2030 [Olympic] Games might be a great opportunity in that regard,” she noted, referring to Whistler’s bid to host the Winter Olympics alongside the Four Host First Nations, Vancouver, and Sun Peaks.
With a 14-month-old daughter at home and another child due in January, Morden said she is well positioned to advocate on behalf of young families—including the push to achieve $10-a-day daycare, which the provincial government, in partnership with the feds, has promised by the end of this year.
“I can address that and try to make a bigger change than what we’re seeing,” she added.
Morden also reassured voters that she intends to maintain her council duties, if elected, after the birth of her second child, and doesn’t anticipate missing significant time at municipal hall.
“I don’t think it should hinder anything. I have an amazing support system in my husband and my family and they can help me through it all,” she said.
Acknowledging she might not be as well-versed on the issues as Whistler’s current council, Morden said she is committed to getting up to speed and noted her “extensive” volunteer experience with various community organizations, including Zero Ceiling, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, the Whistler Community Services Society and Arts Whistler, where she serves as vice chair.
“I’m a hard worker. I’m a consensus builder. I have common sense. I want to learn everything there is that goes along with this position,” she said. “So I might not be as informed as some of the other council members at this time, but I want to learn—and I think that gives me a fresh perspective, too.”
Learn more about the campaign at jessieforcouncil.com.
Whistlerites head to the polls Oct. 15.