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Bill Barratt reflects on 30 years at the RMOW

Highs and lows all part of the job, he says

Bill Barratt is a man who takes obvious pride in what he has achieved through his time in Whistler. It's been substantial, there's no doubt. He's worked hard for his success and, by natural extension, the success of the town.

But he can be a difficult man to read. His eyes are not windows but rather barricades into whatever's going on inside; and that, coupled with the air of success he brings into whichever room he's in, are likely to throw people off upon first impressions.

When Pique spoke with him, however, he was congenial, friendly if a little brusque, and frank about his time in Whistler - what he thought about it, as well as the people who live here. He's a forceful individual, and one who understands Whistler's personality, having personally and professionally invested in its development for nearly 30 years. It's allowed him to make some difficult decisions with the ability to back them up with nary a thought about the criticisms that have been flung his way.

There was no indication that any controversy he commented on over this past year has anything to do with his departure. If anything, he's a man with a plan that has been set out for years and now its time has come.

Pique: You said (last Monday) that you didn't think people would find this retirement a big deal. Why is that?


Barratt: "Well, you know you're doing your job, you've been here a long time, inevitably you're going to retire. It's just - ( shrugs shoulders, shakes head ). But my staff keeps saying, 'this is a big deal, this is a big deal!' I'm like, 'Why?' 'Well, because you've been here so long.' Okay.

But the reality is change is a big deal. That's what's the big deal here. Any time you have change at a senior level, yeah, I guess it gets people's attention, but I wouldn't be here forever, right?"


Pique: What's the number one highlight of your career here so far?

Barratt: "It's easy to say the Games, but y'know, it would have to be Meadow Park Sports Centre because it was the first pure community facility. Someone made a comment to me that Whistler became a community when that facility was built because it was a gathering place for the community...

"There's always been a community here but we were building a resort and there was a real focus on getting the resort built, so the community facilities kind of came on after. Even though the community benefited from the resort and the visitors benefit from those community facilities, there wasn't a purposely built (facility). 'Hey this is for you.' And that's what that was. It was pretty cool. And the Games of course were...."


Pique: Also cool.

Barratt: Well, not so much the Games themselves but all the work that went into making sure the Games (were successful) - like the-300 acre land bank. I mean that was fun.

"And the First Nations agreement because that delivered so many things, both for them and for us, because without that agreement we wouldn't have the parking lots, we wouldn't have the land bank. It was a big complex package but everyone wanted it.

"The beautiful thing about it was there was something in it for everyone and that was the best way to get a deal done - the province, the First Nations and ourselves. So it was very cool. Four years of negotiation. It started in 2002 and I think I had it signed (by council) in 2006 ...or 2007. That was a lot of work."


Pique: You've had your hand in a lot of the development of the community. Are there any concerns or anything like that, about how things might be handled once you are gone?

Barratt: "You know, I think there's a pretty solid foundation. One of our successes has been our level of planning and our commitment to who we are.

"I think if there's any danger it's more from a community base that doesn't understand they're actually in a resort. That might surprise you ... (but) we're not (like) a local government anywhere and people want us to be. There's this kind of movement that it should be like anywhere else. Well, if you want to be like anywhere else, move there because that's not what this place is. It's a resort community. That was our destiny. We're the only community in B.C. where the Minister signs off on the official community plan. There's a reason for that. There's a lot of money invested here. They don't want it to go sideways. So there are checks and balances in place that you would not find in other communities."


Pique: Any regrets? A low point? Something you wish you could have done better?

Barratt: "I can't think of anything that was that type of thing. Versus the highs, there was no low compared to the high."


Pique: How would you consider the issue of the asphalt plant?

Barratt: " A problem. I'm dealt a hand and I've got to make the most with what I can do with it, and that hand was pretty constrained for a lot of reasons. It's like I said to the people that live there, they've got a choice. To suggest that the municipality can just move it, or the zoning isn't right or all that. There are all sorts of factors and I relied on several opinions and researched it and talked to different lawyers. At the end of the day, the deal that was on the table, at the time, was the best deal. I can't wave a magic wand and poof it's changed.

"See this is the interesting thing. My job is to give the best advice that I can to council to enable them to make the best decision that they can make. I don't make the ultimate decision. I recommend the decision based on all the information. I give them all the information. They look at it, they look at what my recommendation is and they either support it or they don't. And in this case, they supported the processing up to a point. When it came to the final vote for the zoning, they didn't, but at the same time, when there was a motion to go through the legal route, they didn't second it because they understood the ramifications of that. Could I have done anything different? I don't think so."


Pique: People were quite critical about the way that you handled it.

Barratt: "It comes with the territory."


Pique: Did it change your perception at all of the community members, or how the community handles these things?

Barratt: "No. You know what? I respect passion. They were being passionate. I'm passionate. I'm passionate about this place. I take a lot of pride in it. Would I have been able to have pulled a rabbit out of a hat? Sure, but circumstances dictate. The one thing that I don't understand is when people make it personal. It's not personal. It's business. Business is business. I never have a problem separating that and if you want to be vindictive and write whatever you write, I can't control that, but that personally, to I say, I have a job to do. I represent the interests of all the taxpayers. It's no different than all of council. That's how you got to look at it."


Pique: Were you able to keep those personal attacks separate from your regular life?

Barratt: I've been doing this for 30 years. Personal attacks? You have no idea over the years, I mean really. You have no idea. And the one thing that I've learned through all that is people that make personal attacks, or if they make accusations about people, it's because that's how they behave.

"Those are their values, and therefore everyone is like that.

"Those aren't my values and council knows that. The people who know me know that. The people that I work with, the people that I have worked with for a long time know that those aren't consistent with my values. I wouldn't be here if they were."


Pique: Are you going to work again?


Barratt: "Probably, but on things that I want to work on. It might be volunteer (position). I don't need to work, but if something interests me, I'll do that,"


Pique: Were there points when you felt like you should have left or wanted to leave ?


Barratt: "Nope. I've enjoyed it. This is a pretty cool place to work with great people. It's always been challenging, it's always been new. When we had the Games, I mean that was an eight-year ride. It started when we were awarded and it was a lot of work and we were very successful. The other part to this is, particularly with the Games, I've had some opportunity to work with some amazing people....There's good time and there's bad times, like with any job. You take the good with the bad, but I don't take it personally."