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Chamber welcomes fresh faces to board

Diverse business backgrounds represented



The votes are in, and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce's 2016 board of directors has been set.

Seven candidates were elected in the online vote held Nov. 10 to 24.

Newcomers Brady Smith of the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre (SLCC), Nick Papoutsis of BlueShore Financial, James Kirkwood of Kirkwood Consulting and Lloyd Daser of the Pan Pacific Whistler will join returning board members Flora Ferraro of Whistler Blackcomb, Michael Mills of Fotosource and Coast Mountain Photography and Grant Cousar of Whistler Cooks.

Cousar is heading into his fourth term with the board, and his second year as chair.

"We've been a part of some really, really great policy and advocacy, and it's just been terrifically rewarding and I want to continue on," Cousar said of why he chose to seek another term.

Looking at the new faces joining the board, Cousar said he likes the diversity.

"It's just really well represented across the community and across different industries," he said. "We've got very strong sectoral representation."

The four newcomers come from especially diverse backgrounds.

"It's going to benefit us tremendously," Smith said of the various perspectives, including his own experience as executive director of the not-for-profit SLCC.

Part of the reason he decided to throw his name into the mix was to advocate on behalf of First Nations, Smith said.

"I know for a fact that we have a lot of work force between the Squamish and Lil'wat Nations that can contribute to Whistler's success," he said. "I'm just extremely excited."

Kirkwood said he sought election on the board to provide a voice for small business.

"I've worked in the last 25 years with small businesses to improve their sales and marketing and the way they manage their people, so that's sort of the skill set I bring," he said.

"The majority of (Whistler) businesses are small businesses, so I felt they needed to have a voice on the board."

For Daser, it was his work on the advisory committee of the Whistler Experience that led him to seek a bigger role with the Chamber.

"I've been involved with them for about a year and a half helping them guide that program into its new life, and I liked what I saw," he said. "I think everybody has an obligation to give back. You can't sit on the sidelines and just be critical, you've got to get in there and roll up your sleeves and contribute."

Daser said he hopes the international expertise he gained working overseas for Pan Pacific will add a unique perspective to the mix.

Papoutsis, meanwhile, said he sees his election to the board as a chance to make Whistler better.

"I kind of view this opportunity as an extension of my job," he said. "(It's) an opportunity to apply my business acumen and experience to the betterment of the Whistler community."

Having "been on both sides of the income statements," Papoutsis said he understands the keys to a healthy business.

"I get my satisfaction as a company and as a banker when the local businesses who bank with me are doing a good job with the customers and the visitors," he said.

"So having the ability to look at it from all the different angles, and then of course having the risk mitigation background as well provides me with some excellent insight."

Chamber board members are elected to three-year terms. The terms are purposely staggered to allow for continual turnover.

Current board members are Ro Davies of the Whistler Golf Club, Kyle Hannay of McCoo's, Theresa Walterhouse of BDO Canada and Sarah Strother of Whistler Publishing.

Retiring from the board are Sue Adams, Kirby Brown, Dave Williamson and Ben Thomas.

Looking ahead to the coming year, many of the challenges facing Whistler businesses will be similar to those it faced in 2015 — namely, staffing shortages and a lack of affordable housing.

To address them, the Chamber needs to take on a cerebral approach, Cousar said.

"Honestly, just keep on dissecting them as to what is the challenge? What's our opportunity to either advocate or induce change?" he said. "Is it internal or is it outward struggles that we're facing? And then do our best to come up with good answers."

Having such a wide variety of voices and backgrounds at the table will help make those answers more apparent.

"It just really helps, when you're sitting there discussing challenges as a community at the boardroom table or in different committees, when you feel like you've got a voice from lots of different sectors," Cousar said.

"It leaves you with a greater level of confidence that we know what we're talking about."


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