New Whistler council gets to work as four-year term begins 

Priorities include village rejuvenation, the Cultural Connector, affordable housing and the OCP

click to enlarge PHOTO BY SCOTT BRAMMER/COAST MOUNTAIN PHOTOGRAPHY, COURTESY OF THE RMOW - I Swear Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden is sworn into her second term of office by the Hon. David St. Pierre on Tuesday, Dec. 2.
  • Photo BY Scott Brammer/Coast Mountain Photography, courtesy of the RMOW
  • I Swear Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden is sworn into her second term of office by the Hon. David St. Pierre on Tuesday, Dec. 2.

Tuesday's inaugural council meeting had all the hallmarks of a changing of the guard — RCMP officers in Red Serge, a judge to hear the formal oaths of office, a solemn ceremony heralding a new beginning.

And yet, for all the pomp and ceremony designed to look to the future, it was still impossible not to think back.

At that same event three years ago council chambers buzzed with an undercurrent of excitement, a palpable sense of change in the air, an expectation of big things to come on the horizon. And council delivered.

This time around a steadiness, a sense of a calm and confidence pervaded Millennium Place as each council member — three new and three incumbents — were sworn in before judge the Hon. David St. Pierre.

But if council is to get the job done, set its course and steer Whistler into the future, it will have to put to rest the ghost of the previous term.

"I am excited to get back to work," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden after the ceremony, her Diamond Jubilee pin proudly on display for the occasion.

"There is a heavy agenda... We've been on a bit of a hiatus since the writ was dropped."

Even the mayor, however, couldn't help but make comparisons to the past, as she gave her address to the community.

Three years ago, she said, there were 30 council candidates vying for office; this time there were 11. There was a 54-per-cent voter turnout, this time half that.

"Those statistics would suggest indifference. I think not," she said in her speech, given, she revealed, on her 37th wedding anniversary, as her husband Ted looked on from the audience.

"Three years ago I asked all of you to stay engaged. I said that we were going to use an effective and hands-on committee system. We did that and you kept up your side of the bargain too...

"So I repeat what I said three years ago: In my life I have never been indifferent and neither has this town. Whistler and engagement are synonymous."

She said the low voter turnout this time around was a signal, "...that many in the community are satisfied with the work done so far."

But she won't be resting on her laurels, and neither will council.

In addition to outlining the appointments to 34 committees and boards, the mayor touched on the work ahead — village enhancement and rejuvenation, construction of the gateways and portals project, completion of the Cultural Connector, the VSO Institute, the opening of the Audain Art Museum.

And then there is the work going on inside municipal hall — the customer service project, Phase 2 of the illegal space initiative, the strategic plan for the Whistler 2020 Development Corporation, affordable housing and the Official Community Plan.

"There are exciting times ahead and lots of work to do and we will need your engagement to get those things done," added the mayor.

When asked how the ceremony feels this time around, incumbent Andrée Janyk said: "I think it's a positive vibration. I think the community is happy with what has happened and they're looking forward to us continuing the same kind of work."

She admitted she was initially worried about committing for four more years and the impact that would have on her personal and family life.

"Now that you are sworn in, you get ready to do the work; it'll be fun," she said. "I feel confident that I made the right choice."

Newcomer Jen Ford, holding her baby in hand at the reception afterwards, said she was pleased with her new council appointments.

"I'm really looking forward to working with the library board," she said, also noting that she is pleased to continue her work on the board of the Whistler Housing Authority and WAG.

Jack Crompton too is "ecstatic" about his positions on future boards.

As for comparisons to three years ago, he said:

"I think there were some very clear 'to dos" that came out of the election (in 2011). This time I think there's a hope within the community that we'll continue to move some things along that we've started.

"There's some experience around the table now. Last time we were wholly dependent on Nancy."

This was not the first time the seven council members have gathered since the November election.

The mayor called an unofficial meeting at her house last week to get the ball rolling, and perhaps set the tone for the future after some hard feelings from the election in some quarters.

Wilhelm, in an interview before the swearing in ceremony, said: "Notwithstanding the fact that it was a bit of a rocky start, I am increasingly hopeful that that was just an anomaly and that we're going to be able to work well together."


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