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'Vision and partnership' key to resort success, says council candidate DeJong

Whistler Blackcomb mountain planner Arthur DeJong running for council



As a resort resident and Whistler Blackcomb employee for over three decades, mountain planning and environmental resource manager Arthur DeJong has a unique perspective on what has made Whistler so successful over the years.

And, with the recent announcement that he will be seeking a spot on council when Whistler heads to the polls next month, DeJong is looking to bring that perspective to municipal hall.

"I've always thought about municipal politics," he said. "I did not plan (to run) this term, but a number of influential people approached me and said now's the time. Sometimes you don't choose the time."

DeJong, an active volunteer who has spent time working with various environmental, social and cultural organizations in the community, was officially nominated by outgoing councillors Duane Jackson and Roger McCarthy, and credited the current council with solidifying his candidacy.

"A huge part of (my decision to run) is the culture of 'teamness' that the present council has," he said. "They have been highly effective and functional in their term, and that really means a lot to me. I see myself adding value to that team."

One of the keys to Whistler's future success, DeJong said, is keeping in mind what transformed the village from a landfill site so many years ago to a thriving world-class resort.

"I've travelled through over 50 countries and looked at hundreds of mountain resorts throughout the world, and arguably, Whistler is the best there is on the planet, but how did we get there?" he asked. "We've always been driven by vision and partnership. That's what got us here today and to be successful in the future, we need to keep driving that."

With his work in environmental stewardship at Whistler Blackcomb, DeJong said he can lend "an environmental voice with a deep competence in sustainability" to the council table, and feels the community has fallen behind on its environmental goals outlined in the Whistler2020 planning document.

"Our citizens need to gather around the table again and have a current planning process, not a wasteful one in terms of time and money, to make sure we're driving our Whistler2020 vision as much as possible. It has lost momentum," said DeJong.

Specifically, DeJong is concerned with the future impacts of climate change on the resort, effectively managing wildlife in the community, the logging of old growth forest and minimizing wildfire risk.

Outside of his environmental expertise, DeJong also has ideas on what issues he feels should be at the top of the next council's agenda. Ensuring affordability and addressing the current housing crunch is a must, he said, adding that the resort cannot afford to lose any of the 75-per-cent-plus of Whistler's workforce that resides within the community.

A self-described fiscal conservative, DeJong said holding the line on the municipal budget is essential, as is maintaining the flow of provincial dollars to Whistler through the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI), a program Victoria is reexamining in the future.

"I really want to see the RMI (funding) continue and flourish. It's done so much for our summer business," he said.

As a longstanding crisis call-line volunteer, DeJong said he has a "sensitive spot" for the social support needs of the resort, and, if elected, is looking forward to familiarizing himself and working with the Whistler Community Services Society.

DeJong is also a member of the Whistler Alliance for Cultural Tourism, the Whistler Blackcomb-sponsored Habitat Improvement Team, the Whistler Bear Working Group and a director at the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group.

DeJong said he will maintain his duties at Whistler Blackcomb if elected, but noted he has several months of vacation time accrued he can use "to get up to speed on municipal affairs.

"I'm very capable of working long hours, I've been doing it my whole adult life, and if I'm passionate about something, I give it my all," he added.

The municipal election is set for Nov. 15.

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