Municipal elections are four months away but interest in who will lead Whistler after Nov. 16 is already piqued, as more than 140 people gathered at Les Deux Gros Restaurant July 12 to hear Dave Davenport launch his campaign for mayor.
Davenport, who with his partner Lauren Wornig owns the Skitch store and Mountain Crests embroidery, issued a strongly worded challenge to the status quo at municipal hall and asked people to think how Whistler can move forward in relation to four specific "opportunities": confident leadership, financial responsibility, action, and openness.
"My first point is that we can improve the expectations we have for leadership from our mayor," Davenport told the gathering.
"We need a mayor who is prepared to stand up, say what it is that he believes and confidently advance our community. We need strong leadership that understands that there is a great difference between simply trying to find consensus rather than working hard and actually building consensus.
"We need to rediscover the power that comes from six councilors driven to work hard and made to focus on the tasks at hand."
Davenport, 40, is a 15-year resident of Whistler and was the Whistler Chamber of Commerces Business Person of the Year in 1999. He has not run for political office previously but has served on several committees and boards, including chairing One Whistler. He is also a member of the Commercial Core Committee, a board member of the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation and has served on the Village Enhancement Steering Committee and two chamber of commerce committees.
Davenports only declared opponent for the mayors job, to date, is incumbent Hugh OReilly, who was elected in 1999 and 1996. Prior to that OReilly was a councilor for eight years.
Davenport said the second opportunity facing Whistler is having a mayor who understands money and financial issues.
"If affordability or taxation is not a persons first concern, it is at least in their top three," he said.
"We need an understanding at the highest level of what things should cost and what we can afford. We have to have a mayor who can make hard decisions when it comes to the business of Whistler."
The third point Davenport outlined was changing "our councils mindset from one of reaction and into one of action."
"We could all benefit if we stopped concentrating our political energy on what we dont want happening and instead started concentrating our efforts on those things we would like to happen," he said.
"Finally, how many times even in this last year have we discovered a municipal effort that seems to be occurring with little or no input from the community?" Davenport asked.
"Politics was designed for the public. Councils job is supposed to be to engage people and use this community intelligence to drive our municipal administration.
"Over the last six years we have exactly reversed this public process. Far too often we have found our mayor and council presenting us with decisions designed entirely in the hall never having asked us what we might have wanted."
Despite Davenports lack of political experience, many at the campaign launch were enthusiastic about his chances, and encouraged by the number of people who turned out.
Sue Adams, a member of Davenports campaign team, said Davenport understands the role of mayor. "Hes done his homework. Dave would make a good CEO," she said.
Among those in attendance were MLA Ted Nebbeling, Squamish Councilor Paul Lali, many people from the local business community, a handful of Lower Mainland residents who own property in Whistler, and some people just curious to see who else would show up.
Davenport grew up in Vancouver and has been a Whistler skier since 1967. He has a BA in economics from UBC and a MBA from the University of Western Ontario.
After moving to Whistler in 1987 to manage the Can-Ski shop Davenport and Wornig opened their first store Mr. Whistler in 1988. The business expanded to four stores, which were sold in 2001. They opened Skitch, a store designed to promote the work of Canadian artisans, in 1995. They bought Mountain Crests in 1998.