From Philly kid to the mayor of Whistler

Posted: February 19, 2010

WHISTLER, British Columbia - Turns out, the mayor of the most happening ski town in North America is a Philly guy.

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed moved to Montreal from his Philadelphia home near the Art Museum at age 12 because his father objected to the Vietnam War.

"He didn't want his taxes going to the Vietnam War," said Melamed, now 56 and a Canadian citizen. "The only way he could assure that was to move out of the country.

"I'm a big Phillies fan," he said. "When I was a kid, I loved Johnny Callison."

Via college and adventurism, Melamed gradually made his way west to Whistler. His unlikely rise to the top of this affluent village began as a lift operator in 1976. A year later, he joined the professional ski patrol, a position he held - in addition to construction worker - until his election in 2005.

He still volunteers for the patrol once a week. It's his passion, he said, a passion that was started by the family of a retired Philadelphia physician, Gertrude Copperman.

"They could be held responsible for my arrival out here," he said. "Just after our move to Montreal, they came and visited us and took me skiing. And that's all she wrote. After I had that exhilarating experience, there was no looking back for me."

Married with two sons, he is part of several environmental missions, including Whistler's grass-roots citizens environmental organization, AWARE. He's on several citizens boards as well, an offshoot, he said, of his parents' passions and the city they were forged in.

"I'm very proud that I come from the City of Brotherly Love," he said. "I have very fond memories of Philadelphia. My grandmother lived there until she passed away a few years ago. I've still got cousins in Ardmore."

His last visit, he said, was 2 years ago, when an uncle, Sanford Greenberg, turned 80.

"It's a great city," Melamed said. "I like what they've done since we left. Their downtown is vibrant."

So, would he come back? After 34 years as a Canadian? After 3 decades of living in the mountains?

He doesn't love us that much.

"We're just happy to be living here," he said. "So close to nature." *

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