And they're off 

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF THE RESORT MUNICIPALITY OF WHISTLER
  • Photo courtesy of the Resort Municipality of Whistler

With Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden's announcement this week that she is not seeking re-election, I think it is safe to say that the campaigning for October's municipal election is officially underway.

Councillor Sue Maxwell has also announced she will not run again after serving one term—a term marked recently by her visible level of frustration with staff on any number of fronts, including issues and decisions around the environment and the budget.

Couns. Cathy Jewett, John Grills, Jack Crompton, Steve Anderson and Jen Ford are not yet ready to share their election plans.

Could Jewett, Grills and Crompton be considering a run at the mayor's chair?

Let me say on the record that all are valuable voices on council and at the table of the many committees and boards they sit on, so here's hoping they are considering running.

Mayor Wilhelm-Morden is the longest-serving municipal politician the resort's local government has had, and she has seen our home grow up before her very eyes.

The tales of her living in a squat, travelling up and down to law school in Vancouver and studying by kerosene lamp at night are no exaggeration.

She could have moved to the big city and joined the lawyer rat race, but she settled here, and one can't help but think the decision to put down permanent roots and raise her family here has informed a great deal of what she has worked to accomplish both as a councillor and as mayor.

She counts her founding role in the Community Foundation of Whistler as one of her most significant accomplishments, along with playing a role in getting the Audain Art Museum added to Whistler's roster of assets.

She stepped into the political ring for the first time in 1984 because she was mad at the council of the day, which wanted to charge cross-country skiers on the Lost Lake trails. She lost the battle over the trails, but won a seat at the council table.

In 1990, she ran for mayor but lost by just 35 votes to Ted Nebbeling.

A young mother, she was focused on community amenities and making sure that Whistler kept its community soul as it forged its path to becoming North America's No.1 ski resort.

And, yes, housing was an issue back then, too. The Whistler Housing Authority was established while she was a sitting politician, and there can be no denying that without that organization, things would be much, much worse.

This week, Wilhelm-Morden admitted as she looks back, that local government should have seen our current incarnation of the housing crisis coming—most residents would agree. This "unintended consequence" of our success has always, always been our plague and must continue to be something that our local leaders try to resolve in the short- and long-term going forward.

A good first step would be reconsidering council's position on allowing more employee-restricted housing in the Nesters Crossing industrial park.

On her watch, Wilhelm-Morden also listened to the residents of Cheakamus Crossing, with council trying to shut down the operation of the asphalt plant there. It was also decided that Whistler would not buy any asphalt from that location. However, the plant has been allowed to continue operations by provincial authorities, and in the last year, this has cost Whistler taxpayers a premium of $164,000, as we have to pay to have the material brought from Squamish.

As an election looms in October, is it time for the community to revisit that policy?

And work still needs to be done to repair from the "brown-bag" lunch comments our mayor made, which offended many visitors who come to our community from the Lower Mainland.

But looking back over the last eight years with Wilhelm-Morden at the helm, Whistler has enjoyed steady success, a strong foundation of stakeholder commitment to working together and a council that worked hard to get things checked off its lists.

While any council has to work well together, the mayor is a keystone position—and replacing our mayor will be tough. A gracious, intelligent, hardworking, community-minded leader, Nancy has always stood by her values and I will miss her thoughtful work.

Here's hoping the loss on the political front is a gain for the community as she brings her passion to keep Whistler the amazing place it is.

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