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O’Reilly bids farewell at council meeting

Mayor endorses Ken Melamed for next leader of Whistler

It was a standing ovation for outgoing Mayor Hugh O’Reilly as he chaired his final council meeting Monday night, marking the end of a 17-year political career in Whistler.

"The work of council never ends but my term has come to an end," said O’Reilly his voice catching in a wave of emotion.

There were just a handful of audience members left to hear O’Reilly’s last words but senior staff and council stood up and applauded him in recognition of his long career serving the community.

His farewell came on the heels of a council meeting where the municipality announced the Whistler 2020 community plan received first place in a Liveable Communities award announced that day in Spain. The award is endorsed by the United Nations Environmental Programme and Whistler won first place out of 53 entries in the Planning for the Future criteria. Whistler 2020 also received a silver medal and third place in its population category.

That was icing on the cake for O’Reilly, who has been a champion of Whistler 2020 since its inception.

When he heard excited staff members deliver the news over the phone from Spain on Monday, he was filled with satisfaction.

"As everyone knows it had its bumps and challenges along the way but in the end I never ever doubted the quality of the product that we would deliver," he said proudly this week.

Now he wants to take Whistler’s story of sustainability on the road and share it as he embarks on a new chapter in his life.

"I hope to be a voice and champion for what Whistler’s doing and spread the word while I travel and do some other things myself," he added.

In early August the mayor announced he was not seeking re-election for a fourth time. Instead, he left for Hawaii almost immediately, to sell real estate for Playground, a subsidiary of Intrawest.

O’Reilly has been commuting for meetings over the past three months and telecommuting for other council work, a decision that has been criticized in the community ever since he left.

The mayor was in Whistler with his wife Patti this week wrapping up final business, which included casting his vote in the early voting polls Wednesday morning.

O’Reilly is endorsing Councillor Ken Melamed for mayor, whom he has worked with for nine years on council.

"First of all I think Ken has amazing integrity. Over the years I’ve watched him, I’ve worked with him… and he has always stood up for what he felt was right."

He said since Melamed decided to run for mayor, he has changed in council meetings.

"He recognizes that he’s the one that has to now change, that the role of mayor is different than that of an individual councillor," said O’Reilly. "I think that he’s prepared to make accommodations that are required to take that leadership position."

O’Reilly also said Councillor Nick Davies is a good second choice for mayor.

As for his council picks, the mayor has placed his confidence in former Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, whom he has worked with on council before, Bob Lorriman who he said has done his homework and is very engaged, Eckhard Zeidler who has a banking background and an environmental bent which gives him a good balance and Michael d’Artois, a longtime local with a fairly young family who understands Whistler’s roots.

O’Reilly did not share his final picks but said that there is need for some young faces on council.

"After that there’s probably the necessity for some youth, some younger people who are really the up and comers, the future of the community and a chance for them to get on," said O’Reilly.

In his final words this week as he makes his rounds in the community taking his good-byes from friends of the last 30 years and colleagues throughout his time as mayor, O’Reilly simply said: "It’s been amazing."