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