Race for mayor begins 

Former mayor Ted Nebbeling throws his hat into election ring

Though he won’t reveal the details of a recent telephone survey, the results were good enough to convince Ted Nebbeling to run for mayor in November.

"That was part of the puzzle that I wanted to see and it was very positive," said Nebbeling this week.

The poll canvassed the community on who they would vote for in a mayoral race between Nebbeling, Councillor Nick Davies and potential candidate Rick Clare.

"It certainly reaffirmed (my) gut feeling and it solidified my decision to take on the challenge of carrying Whistler back to be the place that it used to be," said Nebbeling.

And so the race is on.

Whistler will be heading to the polls on Nov. 19, where voters will decide on a new mayor and council. To date, Davies and Nebbeling are the only two candidates officially in the mayoral race.

Nebbeling said he had no intention of getting back into political life after deciding not to run again as MLA for West Vancouver-Garibaldi, where he represented Whistler’s interests at the provincial level for nine years. He was tired of living part of the week in Victoria and wanted time to travel with his partner, Jan Holmberg, and spend more time at their Whistler home.

"I really had no intention of running but I also quickly realized once I was back that I had far too much energy and ideas," he said.

He was also very concerned with the state of the community, the boarded up shops for lease in the village and the feeling of worry and frustration among the business community in the resort, a far cry from what’s happening elsewhere in the province.

"Today we see an economy booming, we’re the number one economy in Canada as a province, we are the largest job creator in Canada and at the same time I see Whistler going exactly the opposite way. And I just ask myself, why is this happening? And I can only look at the leadership.

"That is really the reason I decided, after talking to a lot of people, to throw in my hat and enter the race for mayor."

The leadership, he said, has failed small businesses in the resort, which he believes are still the heart of the economic engine of Whistler and a topic dear to his heart as a former owner of about a dozen local businesses.

Nebbeling and Holmberg came to Whistler in 1977. In those early days Nebbeling would spend the night baking at his Gourmet Bakery, and then along with Holmberg set to work in their village stores during the day. They worked hard. By 1986, however, Nebbeling found a niche in local government, where he served for two terms as a councillor before running for mayor and serving two terms in that position between 1990 and 1996.

"We have to have a council that has the same ideas about Whistler’s business future," he said.

The first time he ran for mayor of Whistler there was no transit system in the resort, no ice rink or sports centre or swimming pool. That was in 1990 and Whistler was sorely lacking community amenities.

After his two terms as mayor Whistler had a solid transit system, the hugely successful Meadow Park Sports Centre and a community centre at Myrtle Philip school.

He also brought in town hall meetings, where community members gathered to hash out important topics.

"People were buying into something because there was a dialogue," he said. "The spirit of this community was very supportive of what was happening."

As such, he is critical of the way the discussion of the Paralympic arena has been handled by this council, with no community input into the future of the venue, whether it’s in Whistler or Squamish, until this month.

Council could not bring the debate public, they say, because of complex negotiations with third parties, which forced the discussions in camera.

Despite the costs of the various arena options being made public this week, Nebbeling still has a series of questions, which need to be answered before he can make up his mind on whether Whistler should build the arena or not.

He asks: Why is it now costing $58 million when it was originally slated to cost $40 million, including cost escalation contingencies?

Why can Squamish build it much cheaper than Whistler?

Are environmental standards such as LEED driving up the costs?

"I don’t have the answer but I certainly have the questions," he said. "But I start off with the concept that the arena should be in Whistler and how can we make it happen?

"As a council, as the mayor, you take initiative and say, ‘well if you can’t skin a cat one way, you do it another way.’"

As for the future and leading Whistler through to 2010 should he win this term as mayor, Nebbeling said he is focusing only on the next three years.

"It’s up to the voters," he said.

"All I can do is offer my services."

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