Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

Local News

November 13, 2013

OHFD: A leader's spark ignites excellence

Second in a series

Nov. 13, 2013 — Attitude reflects leadership.

That memorable quote from “Remember the Titans” is more than just a feel-good mantra. It's a fundamental principle that has shaped the Olive Hill Fire Department for the last six years during Wes Gilliam's tenure as chief.

Firefighting is in the Carter County native's blood. It's a passion he can trace back to his teenage years, when he was part of the Grahn Volunteer Fire Department.

“When I went through high school, I knew there were two things I wanted to do: fly and be a firefighter. I took the flight test for the military and did quite well, but the day before enlistment something told me it wasn't what I was supposed to do. So I went the very next day and enrolled at Eastern Kentucky University instead,” said Gilliam.

He went on to graduate from EKU in 1996 with a degree in fire engineering and immediately began serving as a firefighter in Richmond.

Three years later, he began his service with the Lexington Fire Department, at which point he and his family moved back home to Olive Hill. It was during this time that Gilliam began volunteering with the Olive Hill Fire Department.

During Gilliam's time as chief, the Olive Hill Fire Department has doubled its volunteer base and become one of most highly trained and well-equipped operations in the region.

His work to reshape the culture at the station has earned him a great deal of admiration, not just at the firehouse, but in the town as well.

“When my son was 16 he wanted to join the fire department, but I never would have let him if Wes hadn't been the chief,” said Carolyn Callihan, who owns Tyler's Pizza.

“He's a real person of integrity. Everyone in the community respects him,” she added.

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