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Council pay not worth it for Lamont

First-time councillor will not seek re-election



Caroline Lamont is clearing the way for another community member to take her seat on council.

This week the one-term councillor announced she will not be seeking re-election in November.

In many ways, she said, she will not miss her public life of the last three years.

"I don’t think I’m a political animal," she said candidly this week. "I don’t like the very public and often difficult debate. And I will not miss campaigning."

And the pay, at $19,000 a year, simply isn’t enough to keep her there.

There was some speculation Lamont was seriously reconsidering her council job after a remuneration committee recommended a $1,000 raise in council’s pay, beginning in November. Some councillors, Lamont among them, had been hoping to see a bigger raise in light of the many hours council members spend working for the community.

When the committee’s recommendations were presented to council in June Lamont said council pay was one of the factors she was considering when deciding to run again.

Her conclusion is that the job at $19,000 per year simply doesn’t make sense for someone in her situation, where she must juggle part time jobs and become a contract employee.

It simply isn’t affordable for her and her young family as she compromises financial potential, family commitments and career opportunities. And that is something the community should be concerned about for future councils she said, as the election field narrows to just those people who can afford to run and who have the time to dedicate to the job.

"I believe that Whistler must have decision makers that can dedicate (an) inordinate amount of time to be fully engaged with the community, particularly as we move towards 2010," she said.

Lamont’s decision not to run clears the way for another new candidate to take her place. Two weeks ago, Councillor Nick Davies announced he would run for the mayor’s position, which will be vacated by Mayor Hugh O’Reilly. That leaves a second council seat open for a newcomer.

Councillors Gord McKeever and Marianne Wade will run again. Councillors Kristi Wells and Ken Melamed are the only two left to publicly announce their future political intentions.

It is widely known that this has been a difficult term on council, with a group that at times has struggled to get along.

The past three years have taken their toll on Lamont in some ways. She admits she may not have a thick enough skin for the, oftentimes, tough critique of council’s performance. That critique, especially when the facts are wrong, can be very wearing.

"Particularly for me because I think I take a lot of pride in trying to do the right thing and I think probably a lot of my colleagues do too," she said.

At the same time, she is pleased with the planning work done during her time on council, which includes the new governance models for municipal hall and the Whistler Housing Authority, and policy documents for the commercial core zoning and growth management/bed units.

"I know it sounds tedious, that all we did was plan, but it would be nice to be the next council because they will have the benefit of that and also the community has the benefit of certainty, which is really important," said Lamont.

For the next three months, however, she is committed to being fully engaged in council’s activities. Next week she is heading to Berlin for seven days on a community energy planning mission with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

The delegation, which also includes Mike Vance, the RMOW’s general manager of community initiatives, will look at wind farms and methane energy generation, among other things, which could ultimately apply to the athletes village.

Lamont, whose day job is a planner with Brent Harley and Associates, said it makes sense for her to attend as her company is also involved in planning the athletes village.

As for the future, her time once spent on council activities can now be spent with her husband and two children as well as riding her mountain bike.

Still, she will be watching municipal hall closely. Already she is concerned that social and environmental programs may take a backseat to business as the resort struggles to regain its economic footing in the coming years.

Lamont said: "I do worry that the next council is going to be heavy on the business and some of our social and environmental programs and policies that we’ve really worked hard on for the last decade might get lost."

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