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Whistler municipality taps WORCA prez and former Squamish mayor for GM roles

Dale Mikkelsen, Karen Elliott to join municipal staff under new internal structure

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has announced two new major hires and internal restructuring.

The goal, according to a release Tuesday, April 4, is to "align climate priorities and emphasize community engagement." 

Former Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott has been hired as the general manager of community engagement and cultural services, while Dale Mikkelsen—current Whistler Off Road Cycling Association president and former director of development and chief operating officer for Simon Fraser University’s sustainable community model, UniverCity—started his new position this week as the head of the climate action, planning and development services division (formerly called resort experience). 

“Dale and Karen bring a wealth of important experience to their roles and I’m excited for both of them to get started with the team," said Ginny Cullen, CAO of the RMOW, in a release. “With all our general managers in place, I am looking forward to advancing the work on our updated strategic priorities, and to identifying new and innovative ways to address housing, climate action, community engagement and smart tourism.” 

The re-organization will eliminate the positions of manager of cultural planning and development, as well as the manager of economic development and tourism recovery, held by retiring managers John Rae and Toni Metcalf, respectively. Both of those areas will now fall under Elliott's purview. She will also oversee the Whistler Public Library, Meadow Park Sports Centre, and Recreation Services, along with the Festivals, Events and Animation, and the communications team upon her start date on April 17. 

Mikkelsen, meanwhile, will bring the building and planning departments into one division and add transportation planning, the climate and environment department, parks planning and resort operations.  

“We are incredibly fortunate to welcome Karen and Dale to our team," said Mayor Jack Crompton in the release. "They are proven innovators, both with a deep commitment to building great communities. Karen and Dale will help us address some of the bigger challenges facing Whistler today." 

The moves come as the RMOW hunkers down on its four core strategic priorities over the council's remaining term: housing, smart tourism, community engagement and climate action.  

in an effort to bolster its engagement with the wider community—a long stated RMOW goal and source of criticism from the public—the municipality recently announced the creation of its new Community Engagement and Cultural Services division

"There exists a real potential that as housing and affordability challenges increase, so does division and fracturing within the community fabric,” a February municipal report stated. “If this community fabric begins to come apart, the rich Whistler culture that locals contribute to and visitors seek out will start to dissolve.”