5th Gen Native Nikki Gill Sets Out to Preserve the Past and Strengthen the Future of Jackson Hole
(Jackson, Wyo.) - Growing up, Nikki Gill spent her summers at Astoria Hot Springs, her winters skiing the town hill and helped out on her family’s ranch. She watched the community come together in times of need and celebrate in times of success. And she wants her future kids and others to have the same wonderful Jackson Hole experience that she did.
This is why Nikki Gill is running for Teton County Board of County Commissioners.
Early Years and Education
Nikki was born at the old St. John’s Medical Center and grew up on Jackson Hole Hereford Ranch. Nikki, along with her four siblings, grew up helping out on the ranch.
After attending Jackson Hole High School, Nikki headed to the University of San Francisco. Although the big city was a huge change for her, she values the education that she received in school and in the diverse city.
“My personal experience in the city was really valuable to me coming from such a small town, maybe even more so than my education,” she said.
She studied business and during the 2008 election, she became fascinated with politics. A life-changing point in her life was when she interned for Senator Mike Enzi one summer in Washington DC.
“It really changed the course of my life,” said Nikki. “Unlike a lot of the offices in the senate where interns just worked in the mailroom, we were given a lot responsibilities. I even had the opportunity to attend congressional hearings.”
Nikki lived in the city for four years during college and another two while working at a startup after graduation.
Return to Jackson
In 2012, Nikki chose to move back to Jackson to help with the family business. She began working with her father, Robert Gill, and grandfather, Ralph Gill, on their commercial property management.
“I learned how to write leases, and deal with tenants and any issues that arose with their buildings, businesses or homes,” she said. “I shadowed my dad and my grandfather and learned the way they do business. That was really beneficial, especially with my dad. There is a lot of respect in the way he conducts business. I hope that I am able to carry on the same values and working relationships that he has built in Jackson.”
In 2014, Nikki was accepted into the Start Up Institute (now called Start Up Intensive), where she developed a business plan to begin selling her family’s beef, from the Jackson Hole Hereford Ranch, locally. She developed a unique Community Supported Agriculture program for meat, which rolled out during the summer of 2015.
“It [the Start Up Institute] was exactly what I needed. The other students in my class were great at helping me come up with ideas and telling me when certain ideas weren’t that great. It helped with my public speaking and was just an all around great class,” said Nikki.
Following the class, she began expanding Jackson Hole Hereford Ranch’s footprint in the local beef market.
“We had a great first year for the CSA 2015 and then had another great year this year. We recently expanded locally by selling to Sweet Cheeks Meats, Hotel Jackson, Q Roadhouse and 3 Creek Ranch,” she said.
Entry into Politics
Nikki’s family has deep roots, not only in the community, but in politics. Nikki’s grandfather Ralph Gill served as a Teton County Commissioner and as Mayor of Jackson. When she moved back, Nikki began attending local meetings and tapping into local politics. This spring, she officially announced her candidacy for Board of County Commissioners.
“A lot of the meetings that I went to were about the Comprehensive Plan and the LDRs. It was a very frustrating process for us and I know it was for others as well,” Nikki said. “In town, we were trying to do some projects with the Teton Theatre and trying to build apartments on some empty lots. The bureaucracy involved was very frustrating.”
Additionally, Nikki’s husband Rob Ottaway is one of the owners of Cowboy Coffee, so she has seen first hand the impact of the housing crisis on small businesses.
“Housing has always been an issue, but it has reached it’s critical point in the last couple of years. During the summer of 2015, Rob worked seven days a week because he didn’t have enough employees,” she said.
One of the most important reasons she is running is to preserve the community that she remembers so fondly for generations to come.
“I want my future children to have the same experiences that I had growing up in Jackson,” said Nikki. “I think we are at a critical point where we might lose sight of that community in an effort to attract tourism.”
In the primary election, Nikki came out ahead of many of the candidates, but isn’t over confident about the general election. She does feel, however, that she has the most to offer the community.
“I am running because I want to give the younger generation, small businesses and working families a voice in local politics,” Nikki said. “I don’t think that I have all the answers and all the solutions, but I’m someone that is a great listener and really likes to work with as many different people as possible to find those solutions.”
On November 8, make sure to get to the polls and vote Nikki Gill for Teton County Commissioner.