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Year one

Alison Taylor checks in with Whistler council on the first anniversary of their election - what worked and what's ahead



By Alison Taylor

Mayor Ken Melamed admits he hasn’t had a lot of time to really think about this past year.

By all accounts it’s been 12 months filled with momentous decisions both large and small: from losing the Parlaympic arena to re-committing funds to the Squamish-Whistler commuter bus and the gamut of things in between.

This will be a good exercise in reflection he says, sitting down at the boardroom table in his office, and slipping on a traditional black, white and red Japanese jacket.

The coat was a gift from the mayor of Karuizawa, the municipality’s sister city, he explains.

The white Japanese letters running vertically down the front spell “Hancho”, which means section chief of the Fire Brigade, somewhat fitting attire for a mayor who is constantly tested on his ability to put out political fires, and in some cases, fan their flames.

Still, there is something slightly incongruous about the mayor of Whistler dressed in a traditional Japanese fire chief’s coat. It is a disarmingly unselfconscious act.

There’s a chill in his office, the temperamental heating and cooling system at municipal hall is acting up again and shivers in the mayor’s office means someone else is sweating at their desk.

Melamed wears the Hancho coat to keep warm.

Just beyond the mayor’s open door there is an unusual stillness in the hall. The hum of daily activity is suspended. Staff has moved en masse to a nearby hotel conference room to hear plans for a revolutionary restructuring of departments and duties within the organization.

More change is on the horizon.

Some would argue that there has been a sea change in the tone of the town. Whistler has pulled itself out of the doldrums and there is an almost palpable optimism in the air. Maybe it’s the smell of fresh snow blanketing the mountains. Or perhaps it’s the record-breaking room nights this summer on the heels of last winter, which is fondly remembered for its dumps of champagne powder.

But has council played a pivotal role this past year?

By its actions, its willingness to make collective decisions and engage the community, has council set the barometer for positive change in the resort?

When questioned about the new optimism permeating Whistler Melamed pauses to consider the question about council’s role.

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