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“I do not see the logic in terminating someone after their first year.” Teton County, Wyo. Fire Chief speaks out after resigning

UPDATE Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, 2:20 p.m. JACKSON, Wyo. (KIFI) - Teton County, Wyoming officials said in a news release they have accepted the resignation of Jackson Hole Fire and EMS Chief Stephen Jellie.

Assistant Chief Mike Moyer will serve as interim fire chief until the county works to determine their next steps.


JACKSON, Wyo. (KIFI) - The fire chief in Teton County, Wyo. said he will accept a settlement agreement from county commissioners to resign. Stephen Jellie was offered the severance pay on Tuesday.  It comes after months of controversy and public comment on the changes made during Jellie’s tenure as fire chief. 

Jellie told Local News 8 his complaints against the process used to force him to resign.  "My guess is right now, again, they're not offering me $150,000 because they are concerned about my well-being after beating me to death for the last seven months," Jellie said. "It certainly does not represent the compensation I would have made or the life of my time here. It doesn't represent the compensation I would have made at being able to draw a pension from here after just four years. And again, I think you could overcome all those things if you had not gone down a road that literally has created so much negative publicity that will be read from coast to coast."

Jellie said he never had the opportunity to meet with the board to defend himself from the public comments made against him.

He did however praise his current boss, Alyssa Watkin, saying she was nothing but gracious throughout the entire process.

"I don't understand why the county is not following her lead, allowing her to do her job and staffing the departments with department heads that are competent and capable without the overarching detriment of them feeling political pressure to delve into who stays employed and who doesn't,” Jellie said.  “You know, imagine what the precedent likely sets or the image that sets in their people's mind."

We tried to contact Watkins or the Teton County Board of Commissioners for comment. We were told none of them were available to speak at this time.

We then waited across the street Tuesday for the county's public information specialist.  Turns out she's out of town. However, her boss asked for someone to talk with us, and once again we were told nobody was available for comment. 

Jellis also sent an email Tuesday, asking for one more chance to talk with county leaders and develop a way forward. 

"I do not see the logic in terminating someone after their first year, the hardest year, the known first year,” Jellie said. “If you know anything about organizational leadership, organizational management, especially taking over an organization that had the problems that this organization did and the challenges that, you know, the first year is going to be difficult,” Jellie continued.

"Why? Why put somebody through a 6-to-8-week flogging? Tell them that they're going to be able to keep their job after not telling them all year that they were doing anything wrong and then wait for a couple more floggings and then say, here's a severance package, take it or will terminate you," Jellie said.

Jellie's resignation takes effect on January 31. Local News 8 has been asking to talk with a county commissioner since the beginning of January through emails, phone calls, and showing up without an appointment, as noted by a staff member today.  It seems county leadership won't talk with us.  We will continue to try.

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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8.


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