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The new 'dream team?'

Whistler opts for experience in electing new council
DREAM TEAM Newly re-elected Jen Ford speaks with a supporter at the Cinnamon Bear Bar and Grille on election night Oct. 20. Photo By Braden Dupuis

Looking at the wealth of experience and knowledge that will soon be joining her on council, newly reelected Councillor Cathy Jewett drew parallels to outgoing Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden's so-called "dream team" that was elected in 2011.

"I think we have another dream team," Jewett said at the Cinnamon Bear Bar and Grille, shortly after the results were announced on Saturday, Oct. 20.

"I think we have a really strong council, and I'm looking forward to seeing where we go."

Joining Jewett on acclaimed Mayor Jack Crompton's council will be fellow incumbents Jen Ford and John Grills, along with former councillors Duane Jackson, Ralph Forsyth and newcomer Arthur De Jong.

Jewett was the runaway favourite on election night, taking an astounding 2,147 votes (72 per cent of all votes), followed closely by De Jong with 1,973 votes.

"I'm taken by the amount of support that I've received, and it will be such a privilege to serve the community on council," De Jong said, adding that he has a deep respect for the 19 other candidates, particularly the younger ones.

"People like Melanie (Tardif) and Jeff (Murl) showed a lot of class and respect, and so I hope some of these younger candidates come back in the next election."

Looking at his new fellow councillors, De Jong said he likes what he sees.

"It's like getting into a rowboat and you know you're going to be in rough waters—so who are you rowing with? Because it's only going to work if we have people that can leave their egos at the door and give their best critical thinking, but respect each other and ultimately work as a team," he said.

"And I like who I see I'm getting in the boat with, long story short."

De Jong said his first priorities will be digging into the data to get a better understanding of Whistler's current housing situation and tackling the ever present "growth issue."

"I'm adamant that it's about optimizing what we have and not putting yet more pressure on this resort," he said.

"That being said, we'll probably have a poor snow year sooner than later now ... and who knows (what will happen) in the geopolitical, economic world?

"So we have to be flexible, too, in how we manage these growth issues and housing issues."

Ford, who took third place with 1,799 votes, said she was relieved by the result.

"There's lots of work to be done, and I think that we have a great team of people who can work really well together, and can really move some stuff forward in a meaningful way," she said.

"I keep saying this, and I really believe this: It's a new day."

While it was a long month, Ford noted the campaign felt shorter than in 2014, and praised the good conversations and community engagement that came with it.

"I welcome all of these people that have been so engaged for the last month to stay engaged and continue to have these important conversations rather than just every three and a half years having these conversations," she said.

As for her list of priorities, Ford said she's set to jump right back into it with a Squamish-Lillooet Regional District directors meeting next week.

Jackson, who finished fourth with 1,417 votes, said campaigning is hard work but it provides a good opportunity to listen to the community.

"I think people have been very generous with their feedback and suggestions in a productive way, not a negative way, about what’s important to the community and the things that we should continue to work on, (and) other things that we should pay attention to," he said.

As for his first priorities, Jackson said he's still working that out himself.

"I think just getting up to speed, trying to understand the financial implications and the requirements, and I think just getting back into the hall and reestablishing relationships that were productive from the last time I was there," he said.

Following closely was Grills with 1,344 votes.

Like his fellow councillors, Grills spoke highly of Whistler's new council.

"This is a group that I think can tackle bigger problems and kind of tear it apart and say, 'OK, how can we do this properly so that in 10, 20, 30 years, the work that's done in the next six months (or) a year is looked back upon as being good work,'" Grills said.

For the two-term incumbent, the next term is about completing work underway, like finalizing the Official Community Plan (and removing the requirement for ministerial approval), while also addressing any future unforeseen problems.

"You don't know what we're going to be looking at in 2020 and 2021, but I think this is a group that will be prepared to handle that," Grills said.

"I'm looking forward to it."

Rounding out the pack was Forsyth with 813 votes.

Forsyth, a former two-term incumbent, also referred to the new council as a dream team.

"That's a really strong crew," he said.

"The first council that I served on (from 2005 to 2008) was a very good one ... but I think this council is probably the best ever."

In terms of his first priorities, Forsyth said he'd like to work on expediting the housing projects from private developers (while being mindful of community concerns), initiate an audit of municipal construction projects (to see an accurate return on investment in terms of energy efficiency) and find out how the Gateway Loop budget ended up being nearly $7 million.

"That one really sticks in the craw of people, so how did we get there? How do we avoid that?" Forsyth said.

In total, 2,995 people cast votes representing 32.46 per cent of eligible voters.

Previous voter turnouts rates were 1,434 in the 2017 byelection, 2,303 in the 2014 election and 3,952 in the 2011 election.

There were 319 ballots cast at the Oct. 10 advance poll and 380 ballots at the Oct. 13 advance poll. In addition to the voting days, 123 mail ballots were received before the close of voting.

Crompton was declared mayor by acclamation on Sept. 24. Whistler's school trustees were also acclaimed. They are incumbent Rachael Lythe and new trustee Cynthia Higgins.

Official election results will be declared by chief election officer Brooke Browning on Oct. 24 at 2 p.m. The new council will be sworn in at the inaugural council meeting on Nov. 6 at 5:30 p.m. at Maury Young Arts Centre.