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Cathy Jewett wins byelection in convincing fashion

Whistler's newest councillor to be sworn in Nov. 7
ELECTION NIGHT Cathy Jewett (right) and friends await election results on Saturday, Oct. 28. PHOTO by David Buzzard/

While Whistler's newest councillor Cathy Jewett didn't have a strict game plan or campaign team, per se, she still took more than 50 per cent of the vote in Whistler's Oct. 28 byelection.

"One thing I think that the results speak to is that my campaign's been over 40 years long," Jewett said, shortly after hearing the results on election night.

"I've made so many connections in the community in so many ways, through my volunteer work, through my work on the mountain, and even through my kids and my family connections, so I just want to thank all the people that supported me."

Among those Jewett singled out for thanks were part of what she referred to as her campaign "brain trust" — longtime friends Gord Annand, Roger McCarthy and John Hetherington.

"Then I had other people that I can't really name who were quietly rooting for me, and I would really like to thank them too, because their support was incredible," Jewett said.

"Now the hard work begins."

Though Jewett won't be officially sworn in until the Nov. 7 council meeting, she's already had her first meeting with Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and been given a lengthy list of homework.

"We spent just over an hour talking about roles and process, and then some of the significant issues that are facing us now," Wilhelm-Morden said of the Oct. 30 meeting.

"She's certainly got a significant dedication to the community, so she will bring a long history of her involvement in various groups, which is a good thing, and just her life experience, as well, will be very helpful."

The mayor instructed staff to assemble an orientation package for the new councillor, including all of the important documents she'll need to familiarize herself with: the housing task force report, Transportation Advisory Group report, Whistler2020, the 2013 Official Community Plan and the minutes from the last six months of council meetings among them.

"It's quite a comprehensive package of important documents," Wilhelm-Morden said with a laugh.

"I just reminded her, 'look: you're one of seven, and nobody is expecting you to be up to speed the minute you step foot in council chambers,' so I told her not to kill herself with reading morning, noon and night. But I'm sure she'll be a quick study."

Jewett took a commanding victory in the preliminary results, with 799 of 1,434 votes (the vote count was to be finalized on Nov. 1 after Pique's deadline).

Kate Roddick came second with 269 votes, while Dawn Titus was third with 201.

Both Roddick and Titus said they plan on running again in the full municipal election in October 2018.

"Speaking with so many residents in every neighbourhood throughout the campaign confirmed that livability is our biggest concern and we all need to work together to find the right solutions for our community," Roddick said in an email.

"I think it's amazing that seven candidates chose to step up, and that five of those candidates are women. I would like to congratulate Cathy on her election as councillor and to all of the candidates for elevating the discussion in our community about things that really matter to all of us."

In terms of specific lessons from the campaign, Roddick said that finding balance in the community is the clear call to action from everyone she spoke with.

"To ensure we are aligned and make decisions that provide for a sustainable economy and maintain the special character of our home, we need to work together with all levels of government, stakeholders and our community," she said.

"This campaign reinforced that it is necessary to have the skill set and experience (business and governance) to navigate this challenge and create lasting change."

Roddick said one takeaway from the campaign is that she has the dedication, passion, integrity and understanding of what it takes to serve on council, and that engaging with the community is something she really enjoys.

"This campaign demonstrated how passionate Whistlerites are and that we are at a place where we have the opportunity to change our course for the better. We've shown our innovation in the past and we will do it again," she said."

"We need to get that passion to the polls. Given the level of discussion out in the community, we need to understand how to achieve a higher voter turnout."

Reached by phone at her home, Titus was positive as ever in discussing the campaign.

"I've lived here for 34 years. I know a lot of really wonderful people, but we don't often get to make those deeper connections with people," she said.

"I'm just very grateful... It was a fantastic learning experience, one in which I got to truly connect with many community members, and yeah, a positive experience all around."

One of Titus' main goals in running was to raise awareness around the municipality's potential purchase of a multi-million-dollar, artificial-turf field — a cause she's not likely to abandon in the wake of the 2017 byelection.

"I am absolutely running again, and this year now I will continue my focus on spreading the power of yoga connections to our community," she said.

"I've met some incredible people, and that will be my focus for this year while I continue to learn more about how to get elected in October 2018."

Steve Andrews (72), Janice Lloyd (49), Alon Rimon (25) and Kalee Eder (19) rounded out the rest of the ballot.

Along with 385 ballots cast at two advance voting days, 32 people voted by mail and another 1,017 on general voting day.

For comparison, the 2014 election drew a total of 2,303 votes (a voter turnout of about 27.3 per cent).

With the byelection now in the rear-view mirror, council will head into its November planning retreat with a full complement of votes and one year left in its mandate.

"We've got several important projects that are getting close to the end of being completed, so we want to see what else we can take a look at between now and the end of the mandate, and instruct staff accordingly," Wilhelm-Morden said of the retreat.

For Jewett, the issue of livability will be high on the radar as she steps into her new role.

"It's a very complex issue and there's a lot of moving parts to it. There are some simple solutions, but a lot of it is really complicated," she said on election night.

"I think that we have to give the current mayor and council credit. They are working towards that... they're not oblivious to it. They understand the issues. We're also going through another really big change here, a change in the ownership of Whistler Blackcomb, and so this is a real transition year, not just for me, but for the whole town."

A community forum detailing work on housing, transportation and community planning will be held on Thursday, Nov. 2 at the Whistler Conference Centre starting at 4:30 p.m.

"There will be the presentation of the mayor's task force on housing and the seven recommendations, and it's an excellent presentation, so I do encourage people to come out and hear that," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"There will be an update from the Transportation Advisory Group, there will be some brief mention of looking at our community plan and what we're doing with that, and then there are nine tables, with different topics at each table, that people will have an opportunity to go to and to express their views."