Ask about the beginnings of municipal politics in Whistler and two things will unfailingly be mentioned: the year 1975 and the name Pat Carleton. In the early 1970s Whistler had yet to gain a local governing body. The area including Whistler was governed directly by the province and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. Change began in 1974 when the province became interested in developing tourism and enacted a land freeze in the area, preventing private land owners from determining the development of the valley for financial gain. Their report concluded that a strong local government was the solution. The result was the Resort Municipality of Whistler Act and the creation of a new kind of government in 1975.
This new resort municipality was to be unlike any other resort or municipality in the country. Canada had resorts, such as Banff, where a local advisory committee provided guidance to the senior level of government with absolute control over the resort. Canada also had municipalities. Whistler’s new governing body was to be unique. Property owners and residents would elect their own mayor and three aldermen. What made Whistler different, however, was the fourth alderman, appointed by the province to oversee financial isssues and maintain the interests of the province.
On September 6, 1975, the first municipal council was sworn into office. The three elected aldermen, Garry Watson, John Hetherington, and Bob Bishop, were joined by Al Raine, the provincial appointee, and these four representatives were led by Whistler’s first mayor, Pat Carleton.
The early development of Whistler did not progress smoothly. Early in 1976 the community of Whistler and Council agreed upon an official community plan which placed the new Town Centre on top of the dump at the base of both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. This plan was strongly opposed by private land owners who formed the Whistler Development Association. Fortunately the province eventually agreed to the plan supported by Council and Whistler residents and the Town Centre was constructed at the same site on which it stands today.
The first seven years after the incorporation of Whistler as a resort municipality saw dramatic changes to the area. On August 21, 1978, Pat turned the first sod on the Town Centre site and the construction of today’s Village began. By then the problem of a sewage system in the valley had mostly been solved in 1977 with the opening of Whistler’s first sewage treatment plant. When Intrawest held the official opening of Blackcomb Mountain in 1980 Pat was there to do the honours. The early work of Whistler’s first council and its first mayor was instrumental in creating the resort that Whistler is today. In September of 1982 Pat Carleton announced he was not going to seek re-election and was succeeded in December by Mark Angus, Whistler’s second mayor.
To read more about Whistler’s first mayor, who missed the swearing in of Council, and why Whistler’s Council was prepared to resign after less than one year in office check out the Whistler Museum’s blog at http://blog.whistlermuseum.org/2012/06/09/a-new-kind-of-government.