Anne Popma & Garry Watson
A year after their wedding in 1987, Anne and Garry relocated to Whistler from Vancouver, where Anne had been working as Executive Director of Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus and Garry had just completed eight years serving as corporation counsel on the BC Place project to redevelop the north shore of False Creek. On arriving in Whistler, they both immediately became deeply involved in community developments.
Anne became Founder and President of the Whistler Centre for Business and the Arts — a non-profit society dedicated to advancing education and the arts in Whistler— setting a foundation for future growth of the cultural sector. She has since continued working as a volunteer, consultant, strategist and fundraiser for the arts community: as a Director and Chair of the Whistler Arts Council; Director of Maurice Young Millennium Place; and creator of the Arts Legacy Fund with the [Whistler Community Foundation]. She was active in the Arts and Culture Task Force of Whistler2020, the Cultural Tourism Development Strategy, and the Community Cultural Plan. Most recently, she served two years as Whistler’s first Community Cultural Officer.
In the early 1960s, while practicing law in Vancouver, Garry visited the Alta Lake area and climbed Whistler Mountain where he was profoundly struck by the enormous snow fields and stunning lakes 5000 feet below. This experience began his long-term love affair with Whistler.
The Garibaldi Olympic Development Association had been formed to bid for the 1968 Winter Olympics. Garry became a member, was elected to the Board of Directors, and appointed Chairman of its first Community Planning Committee to assess the potential impact of the Olympics on the Alta Lake area.
Prior to 1975, when Whistler was incorporated as the first Resort Municipality in the Province, Garry served on the Advisory Planning Commission of the Regional District and on the Board of Directors of the Alta Lake Ratepayers Association. He was elected to the first Whistler Municipal Council, and served three successive terms as alderman. During this time he worked closely with fellow alderman Al Raine on planning, financing and development of infrastructure for the new municipality, including water utilities, a sewer system, a fire department, municipal administration and bylaws, as well as establishment of the new Town Centre.
In 1989, Garry took a strong interest in the need for affordable employee housing. He was retained by the Municipality as Co-ordinator of Employee Housing and later appointed as Executive Director of the Whistler Valley Employee Housing Society, successfully launching land acquisitions and zoning applications for the Lorimer Ridge, Brio and Millar’s Ridge projects. He was an active member of the School Tax Action Committee, working to achieve a more equitable sharing of school taxes between the three separate communities in the District. He also served on Boards of the [Whistler Community Foundation], the Whistler Health Care Foundation and the Mature Action Committee.
When Garry left Council in December of 1980, he was honoured as a Freeman of the Municipality. He was selected Citizen of the Year in 2005 and received a Community Achievement Award from the B.C. Lt. Governor in 2008.
Their Whistler experience for both Anne and Garry has been a story of commitment to the community and has been deeply rewarding to them. Both will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to have had an active part in helping Whistler become the wonderful community that it is today. Both have left lasting legacies.
As their final legacy to Whistler they have made provisions in their wills to make a further donation to the [Whistler Community Foundation] to be added to the Arts and Cultural Legacy Fund.