Former Mayor of Squamish, Karen Elliott, and sustainable community director, Dale Mikkelsen, tapped to lead new divisions in organizational redesign
The Resort Municipality of Whistler welcomes general managers Dale Mikkelsen and Karen Elliott to its leadership team this month and launches a new internal structure for the organization to align climate priorities and emphasize community engagement.
Mikkelsen joined the municipality on Monday and will head the Climate Action, Planning and Development Services division, formerly Resort Experience. As the former Director of Development and Chief Operating Officer for Simon Fraser University’s sustainable community model, UniverCity, he brings deep experience in housing and development.
Former Mayor of Squamish, Karen Elliott, will follow on April 17, becoming the new General Manager of Community Engagement and Cultural Services, a new fourth branch for the organization, designed to strengthen its community connection.
“Dale and Karen bring a wealth of important experience to their roles and I’m excited for both of them to get started with the team,” says Virginia Cullen, Chief Administrative Officer. “With all our General Managers in place, I am looking forward to advancing the work on our updated strategic priorities, and to identifying new and innovative ways to address housing, climate action, community engagement and smart tourism.”
This re-organization eliminates positions held by retiring managers Jon Rae, Manager of Cultural Planning and Development, and Toni Metcalf, Manager of Economic Development and Tourism Recovery, to add Elliott’s position. She will oversee the Whistler Public Library, Meadow Park Sports Centre, and Recreation Services, along with the Festivals, Events and Animation—and the Communications team. Mikkelson’s new division re-aligns the Building and Planning departments under one division and adds Transportation Planning, alongside the Climate and Environment department, Parks Planning and Resort Operations.
“We are incredibly fortunate to welcome Karen and Dale to our team. They are proven innovators, both with a deep commitment to building great communities. Karen and Dale will help us address some of the bigger challenges facing Whistler today,” says Jack Crompton, Mayor of Whistler.
Internally, the re-organization sets the stage for stronger connection, allowing more room for training, development and knowledge transfer within the organization. Externally, it will also align those teams whose work centres on interaction, programming and communication to be closer to residents and visitors.
The shift was inspired by recent work done on the Whistler Sessions project, which highlighted the importance of clear communication and engagement on key decisions shaping Whistler’s future. The project cultivated an understanding that building and strengthening connections within the community is a key differentiator for how successfully the community will navigate various challenges, including affordability, housing and climate.
Elliott is known for her work as a member of the District of Squamish Council. She stepped down from her term as mayor in November 2022, after eight years at the Council table, and brings with her a wealth of local government knowledge and established relationships. Her professional background includes 17 years of consulting and facilitation experience in the public and private sectors, focused on strategy development, organizational effectiveness, leadership development and change management. A commitment to First Nations reconciliation and finding ways to make local government decision-making more responsive to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion underpins her work.
Mikkelsen is currently on the Whistler Advisory Design Panel, Whistler Housing Authority board, and is the president of WORCA. He was the project planner at the City of Vancouver for Southeast False Creek, which ultimately became the 2010 Athlete’s Village, and helped to create the City’s first Green Building Strategy. He also worked on the planning of Vancouver’s River District and the Great Northern Way precinct.