Opinion » Alta States

Christopher Quinlan — committed to community



"The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community."

- American author/philosopher William James

Whistler's 2011 municipal election was all about change. Intrawest was gone, the IOC's five-ring circus had moved on and the tourism economy had tanked big time. So now what? The mood in the valley was far from conciliatory. Anger. Frustration. Impatience. Rage even. It was clear from day one of the campaign, that local taxpayers were dissatisfied with the status quo. The decision-makers had screwed up, was the general consensus. Heads were going to roll...

The result? Both council and the mayor were sent packing and a whole new crew was brought in to (as one local pundit put it) "clean up the outgoing gang's mess." It was a first for Whistler. Never in its short history had the community voted for such a wholesale change of politicians. Never had it gambled so much on a clean slate. And yet everybody seemed quite happy with the outcome.

But hang on a minute. Was previous council really as incompetent as they were portrayed in that election? Were they really the bad guys in this narrative? In retrospect, it seems not. Indeed, according to some of its members, the 2008 council accomplished exactly what they'd challenged each other to do on their very first day in office: to leave the place in better condition than it was when they first got there.

Chris Quinlan was one of those council-members. A Whistlerite since 1991, Quinlan exudes a kind of jovial bonhomie that could easily be dismissed as fake... if it weren't so heart-felt. Simply put: he's a nice guy. His smile is real. His courtesy is authentic. And his passion for the place genuine. Which doesn't mean he's a pushover.

Entrepreneur, mentor, community volunteer, actor, storyteller, philosopher — Chris Quinlan is many things. But he ain't stupid. "I was having a burger with a bunch of the boys the other night," he starts. "And the subject turned to local politics. Somebody mentioned how quiet things had gotten at muni hall in recent months." He stops for a beat. Takes a long breath. "And I just had to laugh. You see, the reason there's no controversy at the RMOW right now is pretty simple. The new council was set up for success!"

We'll get back to that. But first a little background. Did you know that Chris Quinlan was once a long-haired, red-necked Vancouver Island logger? Really. "If somebody had told me 25 years ago that I would be living in Whistler," he says, "managing the local Farmers' Market and worrying about the environment (Chris is a current member of the board for the Centre For Sustainability), I would have laughed in their face. That just wasn't who I was back then."

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