Whistler has lost its mojo, says Drew Meredith. And until people stop with all the whining and moaning — the pointing of fingers and the apportioning of blame — we’ll never get back on track. “We’ve got to get lean and mean again,” says the former Whistler mayor. “Especially in light of our current economy. We can’t afford to indulge our petty differences anymore. We’ve got to rally around the Whistler flag and get on with the job.”
And if we don’t? “That’s just too scary a notion to contemplate,” he says.
A pro-business, no-nonsense kind of a guy, Meredith has never shied away from contentious issues. And what he sees right now worries him deeply. “We live in one of the most attractive places on the planet,” says the man who led the community out of the devastating recession of 1981-85. “Tourists come to Whistler from all over to experience our lifestyle. Yet we keep telling them what a lousy life we lead here. Things are too expensive, accommodations are scarce and our young people are leaving the town in droves.” He smiles (but it’s not a happy smile). “Is that really the message that what we want to communicate to the rest of the world? Of course it isn’t. But that message is still happening… and it’s having a huge impact on the way we’re perceived today.”
Given the fractious tenor of the current municipal elections, Meredith’s argument is hard to dismiss. “We’ve lost perspective on our priorities as a resort community,” says the long time realtor. “We’ve allowed our success to let us deviate from our primary process. We’ve let our service levels slip, the village needs a good clean-up and we’re missing all those pumped-up, good looking kids who used to come to Whistler to live their dreams. Yet nobody is taking responsibility. There is a real leadership void in this valley right now...”
So what’s the solution? Stop the whining, he says. Drop the self-interest. Instead focus on the opportunities ahead! “We’ve got the biggest show on earth coming here in little more than a year,” he explains. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to ramp up our business; to celebrate what makes us special and unique. Don’t forget, we still have a great product. We still live in a beautiful place. We’ve just gotten complacent about our assets…”
Meredith certainly knows what he’s talking about. In fact, this is almost déjà vu for the veteran poll. Two and a half decades ago, the then-thirtysomething businessman took over the helm of a battered Whistler town council struggling to stay alive. “The early 1980s were awful,” says Meredith. “Bloody awful. There was no momentum. It just wasn’t happening. Blackcomb wasn’t moving. Whistler wasn’t moving. And the local real estate market was going down the toilet fast…”