Whistler’s Citizen of the Year accepted her award twice at the Whistler Excellence Awards last Thursday (June 18).
Anne Townley, a long-time resident and active volunteer was honoured this year — first in a video in which she was told she had won the award and then on stage at the Westin Resort and Spa during the ceremony.
“Wow. I’m so sorry I can’t be there,” she said in the video, as she walked on stage and the crowd erupted in laughter.
Turns out, she decided to return early from a vacation to accept the award in person. “Max (her husband) and I decided this was such an amazing event and award that we flew back last night to be here today,” she said. “It’s a very special award for this community.”
Townley, a retired emergency room nurse, has been volunteering in the community since she joined Whistler ski patrol in 1982. She has served as chair of the Whistler Community Services Society, sat on the library board for 15 years and helped out on the parent advisory council, social sustainability speaker series and the Whistler Health Care Foundation Indulge fundraising committee.
“I would like to thank all the other volunteers in this community for all they do for Whistler,” Townley said. “Every segment of this community you will find volunteers and they are the backbone of what makes Whistler the very special place that it is. I’m thrilled and humbled and honoured to receive this award. Thank you so much to Whistler for allowing me to be a volunteer. It’s been one of the joys of my life.”
The event, put on by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, attracted a crowd of 377 people this year, up 22 per cent from last year. The awards honour not only the best in local business, but also celebrate locals’ contributions to the arts and overall community as well.
Another big winner of the night was Bob Deeks, president and founder of RDC Fine Homes, who was honoured as Business Person of the Year. “This year’s winner is a media maven, dedicated to delivery of the highest quality product and a commitment to making it right,” said Val Litwin, CEO of the chamber, before handing over the award. “In the end, the winner stood out as the man with a plan, a man with vision. He’s taken bold moves in his industry and with smart, strategic partnerships. He’s also making waves outside of Whistler.”
Deeks thanked his staff and gave a nod to Grant Cousar, with Whistler Cooks Catering Company, and James Retty, with Escape Route and Arc’teryx Whistler, who were also nominated in the category. “I have to say, I’m truly humbled,” Deeks said. “When I found out we had been nominated in the top three, I was very excited. I never really thought I would be standing up here. We live in a community that is full of incredibly successful business leaders and businesses.”
To that end, other winners included Ian Ritz, Chromag Bikes, for Innovative Business of the Year; Jody Warren with the Whistler Visitor Centre for Service Excellence, Small Business; Joey Houssian, The Adventure Group for Service Excellence, Large Business and Mark Wrightson with Tourism Whistler Conference Service for the Sustainability in Action Business Award.
A popular category this year was the Rising Star of the Year award, which the chamber introduced last year to celebrate a business person who is “starting to make an impact beyond their years.” There were five nominees with Liam Peyton, organizer of the Whistler Beer Festival, taking that prize.
Stella Harvey, founder of the Whistler Writers Group (also known as the Vicious Circle) and the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival was awarded the Whistler Champion of Arts & Culture award. Harvey accepted the award via video from Athens, Greece.
“Thank you so much for this award,” she said. “We started 15 years ago, the writers festival, the writing community here. Since then we’ve developed many programs… and you’ve always been there for us. From the few members we had in the beginning to the hundreds we have in 2015, none of this would be possible without you.”