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Squamish council bows out

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Ian Sutherland is not Thor. Just the same, he swings a decent hammer.

With the mayoral gavel seemingly misplaced, the outgoing mayor of Squamish managed his final meeting with a claw hammer, a tool he said mayor-elect Greg Gardner might appreciate.

But the gavel reappeared as the meeting drew to a close. Sutherland’s colleagues had it engraved, and, in what they called a Squamish tradition, gave it to the polarizing leader in a ceremony of gratitude.

Throughout the final meeting, the tone was sometimes giddy and sometimes morose. When council adopted a dog-catching bylaw, some members began barking. When they waxed introspective about one another’s term contributions, some members flexed emotional.

“I know I’m supposed to be the tough business person, lawyer and mayor-elect,” said Gardner, “But even I’m getting emotional.”

He likened the group to a family, albeit a slightly dysfunctional, Douglas Coupland version thereof. Still, when outsiders launched criticisms too aggressive, Gardner said the group would close rank and defends its own.

As vanquished mayoral candidate Terrill Patterson heckled them from the gallery, each councillor spoke of their colleagues in terms sometimes sarcastic and sometimes tender.

“One piece of advice,” said the outgoing Raj Kahlon. “Always be yourself. And don’t worry about mistakes. That’s (Chief Administrative Officer) Kim (Anema)’s job.”

While Sutherland and Kahlon chose not to run, Councillors Jeff McKenzie and Mike Jenson finished shy of the required votes.

“I’m the councillor of few words,” McKenzie said. “I like to get things done and not talk about it.”

Leaning over his microphone with a loosely knit brow, Jenson spoke at greater length, saying that though he lost his seat he would continue to work with the groups like the Lions and the Historical Society.

“I came on council two years ago with very little political background,” he said. “I came from a credit centre background and a background in volunteering. I saw council as an extension of that.”

The old fault lines between Sutherland and Councillor Corinne Lonsdale, who secured yet another term in the recent election, surfaced in the same jovial light as the rest of the evening’s business. While Sutherland said he and Lonsdale seemed like natural adversaries, they locked horns with respect, and often in the spirit of fun.

“I’ve written down a few words, and the one I have is ‘volatile,’” joked Lonsdale. “I’m always right, and you’re always wrong.”

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