The straddling man 

Can Greg Gardner become mayor of old and new Squamish?

click to enlarge Greg Gardner
  • Greg Gardner

Of all the different sorts of self-awareness, confidence is perhaps the most productive. It’s a lot like a pheromone. In all corners of life, the well poised carry with them an alluring cloud of promise, and those very vapours produce success and more confidence still. It’s hard to wander within sniffing distance and come through unaffected.

Greg Gardner is a man of casual and mostly affable confidence. He carries that self-awareness throughout his body language, which is open and assured as his eyes dart across the map of Squamish mounted on the wall of his General Motors office on Government Road.

Gardner is no stranger to success. Raised in Hope, he was valedictorian in both high school and university. He has a law degree, which brought him employment in three different firms before moving to Squamish in 1994. Once relocated in the shadow of the Chief, he set up Greg Gardner Motors Ltd., the G.M. dealership that carries his name in large letters visible from the Sea to Sky Highway. Efforts on that front won him the Chamber of Commerce’s businessman of the year award in 2004.

Two years after that, he took his posture to district politics. New Directions Councilor Ray Peters passed away, thus triggering a by-election on June 28, 2006. Gardner entered the fray. Facing off against six other candidates, he scored 1,223 votes, leaving Ted Prior a distant second with 392 ballots.

Now, with two years of political experience under his belt, Gardner’s aspirations are for the mayoral chair. Mayor Ian Sutherland — who announced his retirement from municipal government at the beginning of the month — also entered local politics as the champion of a by-election. The following year, he won the mayoral race in the civic election.

While Gardner easily vanquished his opponents in 2006, voter turnout was low, just 24.2 per cent, the lowest of any by-election dating back to 1995. Meanwhile, in 2001, Sutherland faced stiff competition from Norm Verner, who nailed down 1,209 votes to Sutherland’s 1,426. But the turnout was high. Measured at 35 per cent, it was the second highest by-election turnout since 1995, when 41 per cent of the electorate took to the polls. At this stage, Gardner doesn’t have the same degree of certainty as Sutherland, if only because fewer people weighed in on his 2006 success.

Regardless, the man’s casual confidence goes unchecked.

One of the cornerstones of his upcoming campaign, which won’t really take off until after the summer, revolves around the nexus between council and the general public. Many on council, including Patricia Heintzman and Corinne Lonsdale, say that nexus is damaged, that the lines of communication are in dire need of rewiring. Gardner put forward a similar position in 2006, and he’ll be doing it again this November.


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