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‘I am hugely honoured’: Former Whistler mayor nominated for prestigious award

Nancy Wilhelm-Morden up for YWCA Women of Distinction Award in the Business & the Professions category
Nancy Wilhelm-Morden
Former Whistler mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden has been nominated for a YWCA Women of Distinction Award.

Nancy Wilhelm-Morden has accumulated a series of impressive achievements and titles over the span of her career: mayor of Whistler; lawyer; partner at Race & Company; first Sea to Sky corridor lawyer to earn the title of Queen’s counsel; mentor; mom and grandmother.

This spring, she could add another accolade to the list. Wilhelm-Morden is nominated for a YWCA Women of Distinction Award, the organization announced earlier this month. She’s the only Whistler local out of 75 nominees tapped this year.

For nearly four decades, the prestigious annual awards ceremony has been honouring individuals and organizations from the Metro Vancouver and Sea to Sky region “whose outstanding activities and achievements contribute to the well-being and future of” the community.

Wilhelm-Morden is nominated in the Business & the Professions category, alongside nine other nominees. Award recipients will be announced at the Women of Distinction Awards Gala at Vancouver’s JW Marriott Parq Hotel on May 26.

“I am hugely honoured to have been nominated and to have made it this far. It’s really quite an honour, for sure” said Wilhelm-Morden.

Wilhelm-Morden was nominated by friend Ginny Dennehy, who was recognized with a Women of Distinction Award herself in 2012. The glowing nomination package referenced Wilhelm-Morden’s commitment not only to her profession and her clients, but to her community since arriving in the resort from Ontario in 1973.

Wilhelm-Morden opened her own law practice in Whistler in 1987, which merged with Race & Co. the following year. She served as a municipal councillor before being elected as mayor, where, over the course of two terms, she fought for the preservation of the Emerald Forest, formed the Mayor’s Task Force on Resident Housing, and welcomed the Audain Art Museum to Whistler—all while continuing to practise as a civil litigator with Race & Co.

When she looks back on her time as mayor and the packed schedule that defined those years, “I kind of shake my head like, ‘Wow, holy cow,’” she said with a laugh. “But I was surrounded by very good people on both councils when I was the mayor. All of them were very eager to step in and help me. I was able to delegate and be confident that the task would get done. And, you know, we had issues but we just kept a list and knocked them off one by one.

“I have to say I loved being the mayor. It was very gratifying. It was very rewarding work … They were really good times, at the time.”

Her time as mayor “emphasized to me just what a spectacular place this is to live and work and raise a family,” Wilhelm-Morden added. “I feel very, very fortunate to have been able to do those things and to effectively grow up with this town since I arrived all those many years ago.”

Wilhelm-Morden has managed to stay busy since retiring from municipal politics in 2018 by working full-time as a lawyer, serving as an elected member of ICBC’s Defence Counsel Liaison Committee, and enjoying spending more time with family and friends. (She became a grandma last year, and is eagerly anticipating the arrival of her second grandchild this year.) Even more family time will be on the agenda when she officially retires from her role with Race & Co. at the end of March.

The Women of Distinction award winners are decided by “an external, diverse panel of judges, including community leaders and members of the public,” according to the YWCA.

Individual nominees are also eligible for the YWCA’s Connecting the Community Award, decided by the public. Until April 13, members of the public can cast votes online and the nominee who garners the most will be named winner. Their prize? A $10,000 donation from Scotiabank to the YWCA program area of the winner’s choice.

Wilhelm-Morden said she would direct the winnings toward affordable housing initiatives—“no question.”