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Museum Musings: ‘Hang on to your hat—we’re gonna build a town’

'When the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) was formed in 1975, the organization was small enough its employees numbered in the single digits for the first couple of years.'
Whistler’s 1982 council in its first formal portrait: Councillors Bill Peterson and David O’Keefe, Administrator Geoff Pearce, Mayor Mark Angus, Municipal Clerk Kris Shoup, and Councillors Bernie Hauschka and Terry Rodgers.

When the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) was formed in 1975, the organization was small enough its employees numbered in the single digits for the first couple of years. According to Kris Shoup, when she was hired in 1977 as the secretary of the building inspector (Jim Murray, employee No. 1), she became the RMOW’s fourth employee.

Shoup arrived in Whistler for the summer in 1976 and never left. There were just over 500 residents in the valley at the time and, as Shoup put it, “I absolutely adored it; I thought it was great.”

A vet technician, she ran the vet clinic located in Alpine Meadows, though there was no vet living in Whistler full-time. The vet would come to Whistler once a week and do all the surgeries and appointments booked by Shoup, who did as much as she was able for the rest of the week.  She got to know a lot of the residents working at the clinic, as “everyone had a dog” and, in the case of an emergency such as a dog hit by a car, Shoup would try to stabilize the animal as much as possible so they could be driven to Squamish.

In 1977, during a particularly bad winter for skiing, Shoup was hired as Jim Murray’s secretary, though she continued to work at the clinic for another year or two as well. About six months later, she became deputy clerk and then, when Geoff Pearce was promoted from municipal clerk to administrator, was told by Carleton, “Congratulations, you’re the new clerk.” Shoup held the position of municipal clerk until the mid-1980s.

During her tenure with the RMOW, Shoup worked out of a variety of locations, including the lunchroom of the original Myrtle Philip School, trailers, the “little green building” built using a government grant, and, finally, the current municipal hall after the Keg building was relocated.

The Keg was moved from its original site on Alta Lake to its Whistler Village location in 1981. It would take three years, however, before municipal staff and council were able to move in, and in the interim, Shoup and others worked out of the previous town hall, which was moved down to Function Junction. During this period, Shoup recalled being able to run up to Loggers Lake at lunchtime for her daily swim. After the move to the Village, she continued her lunchtime swims, but now in Lost Lake.

Whistler saw a lot of change from 1977 to the mid-1980s. According to Shoup, one of the most exciting things to happen while working at the RMOW was the day Pearce, still the municipal clerk at the time, came out of a meeting and told her, “Hang on to your hat—we’re gonna build a town.”

She also worked with Trevor Roote organizing public access along with the sewer system in order to build the Valley Trail; witnessed the planning and construction of the training wall along Fitzsimmons Creek (for flood prevention); and saw first-hand Mayor Pat Carleton’s excitement when they found out a Delta hotel would be built in Whistler Village, the resort’s first big-brand hotel.