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Mayor O’Reilly eyes 2005 election, and beyond

Wants to complete Olympic project, build on sustainability initiatives and relations with First Nations

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Hugh O’Reilly said he has never made a secret of the fact he wants to be Whistler’s mayor for the 2010 Olympics.

When asked if he would run for mayor again at last week’s Dialogue Café meeting, O’Reilly confirmed that he would be going for the top job in the November 2005 municipal election.

"There’s a lot of exciting projects on the go that I’d like to be a participant in," he said this week.

"Usually you don’t go from mayor back to a councillor. Either you decide you’re going to stay at the top job and try and see it through until such time as you either retire or they (the community) tell you they’ve had enough."

O’Reilly said he’s just not ready to leave yet.

Central to his decision to run again is his goal to see the Olympic project from its inception to completion.

"I’ve been able to nurture the project," he said.

"I’ve seen it from concept, when it first came to Whistler. We’ve worked through all the community consultation. We’ve negotiated with the provincial government and the federal government and our partners.

"I know what we agreed to right from the get-go and I want to see it get completed."

O’Reilly has been Whistler’s mayor for eight years and is currently serving his third term in office. An election win in late 2005 would give him another three years in office, until late 2008, just a year and a half shy of the 2010 Olympic Games.

To be mayor during the Games, O’Reilly needs to win the next two elections.

He said his years in office provide a sense of continuity in planning for the Games.

"I hear that message (from the community) all the time," he said.

But that shouldn’t be the only reason to get votes, he added.

"I hope it’s more than just the Olympics (as a reason) to support me."

There are other things on O’Reilly’s agenda, namely Whistler’s commitment to sustainability and its relationship with neighbouring First Nations, which are high on his priority list.

These two factors have been key throughout his term in office to date and he plans to keep focused on them in the lead-up to the Games and beyond.

Whistler constantly reinforced sustainability principles during the Olympic bid process and O’Reilly sees that job continuing during the development of the 2010 Games.

"My job is delivering to the (Olympic Organizing Committee) the DNA of sustainability," said O’Reilly.

Likewise he sees fostering a growing relationship with First Nations as integral to the success of 2010.

At the Dialogue Café on Thursday, May 27 the mayor challenged the handful of community members who attended the meeting to think about ways to grow and enhance the future of First Nations in the corridor.

The current reality is that while the resort is concerned about building hundreds of units of employee housing to accommodate its workforce, which expands and contracts throughout the year, Mount Currie has a high percentage of unemployed residents living only 30 minutes away.

O’Reilly said there are a number of things to work on, from transportation links to training opportunities to recognizing the cultural differences.

Community members at the Dialogue Café also offered the mayor suggestions, like encouraging eco-tourism from a First Nations perspective and providing apprenticeship programs.

"My intuitive sense is that Whistler would be very warm and welcoming," said O’Reilly.

"It’ll take a few generations for this to change.

"That’s what ‘vision’ is all about."

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