Residents living in Ketchum Rural Fire Protection District will have two options for District 3 fire commissioner on the Nov. 5 ballot: incumbent Jed Gray and challenger Gray Ottley.

The election comes at a time of significant change for the district, which extends north-south from Galena Summit to East Fork. As of Oct. 1, Ketchum Rural is now contracting with the city of Sun Valley to respond to calls, instead of with the city of Ketchum.

The Ketchum Rural district is divided into three geographic areas, with a commissioner living in each one. Commissioner Chris Stephens—who announced his resignation on Oct. 24—lives in District 1, the northeast region, and Commissioner Earl Engelmann lives in the central District 2.

Now, Gray is facing a contest from Ottley for the District 3 seat.

In interviews, both candidates spoke favorably of the consolidation of fire and emergency medical services in the northern Wood River Valley, and said they hope to use their four-year term to increase cooperation among valley fire departments. They also agreed that if consolidation happens, homeowners could see lower tax rates and better Insurance Service Office (ISO) ratings.

“I believe that with consolidation comes the ability to save public money, and it would be easier to intermix equipment,” Gray said. “It just makes sense.”

Whoever is elected will help maintain both district fire stations at Greenhorn and Griffin Butte, and oversee the purchases of vehicles, among other duties.

Unlike Ottley, Gray does not have a background in firefighting. However, he feels his independent stance has been an asset. Since 2012, Gray has served as chairman of Ketchum Rural’s board of commissioners and has held several leadership positions on boards across the valley, including the Hospice of the Wood River Valley and the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. He’s also served as owner/broker at Sun Valley Associates for the past 37 years and has six consecutive terms on his resume as president of the Sun Valley Board of Realtors.

“The bottom line is I don’t fight fires,” Gray said. “I run a business—the business of running a fire district. The reason I’m running again is to stabilize the relationship between Sun Valley and our district. … Now that we’re involved with Sun Valley, I look forward to having a strong relationship with both cities.”

These days, Ottley is a firefighter—though he believes his background in business will inform wise financial decisions.

Prior to joining the Ketchum Fire Department in 2006, Ottley held an overseas position at General Motors in Singapore, and went on to become president and owner of Distilled Resources Inc., the U.S.’s longest-running potato distillery.

In his current position as senior engineer and EMT with the city of Ketchum, Ottley has evaluated numerous wildland and structural fires, including the Castle Rock and Beaver Creek fires, and has worked to improve emergency response for Ketchum’s over-60 demographic. Working for the city, Ottley has responded to Ketchum Rural calls since 2007.

“I remember taking on 12-hour night shifts for about two and a half weeks, triaging homes after the Castle Rock Fire blew up,” he said. “From EMT training to Forest Service training, I have to say my firefighting experience has had numerous applications in my business, whether that be safety training or leadership.”

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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