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For the week of May 30 through June 5, 2001

Orville Drexler, former sheriff, dies at age 74

Express Staff Writer

Former Blaine County Sheriff Orville Drexler died last week at his home in Hailey. He was 74.

Drexler, as Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling put it, was the sheriff during "the transitional period when the old Blaine County was moving into the new Blaine County."

For many of the valley’s new residents, this may not mean much, but in "the old Blaine County" there was no such thing as 911 for emergency calls or a countywide dispatch center to relay information and instructions. Those innovations were ushered in by Drexler.

Femling said that early in Drexler’s tenure, a red light was hung outside the Alpine Bar (now Whiskey Jacques’) as a way to alert Ketchum police there was a problem. If people needed the police, they would call the bar, and the bar would turn on the light. Police would drive by the bar periodically to check for messages.

Chief deputy sheriff Gene Ramsey also served as Drexler’s chief deputy. He remembered Drexler as having his own style.

"He liked having his daily reports done," said Ramsey, "and he checked them for spelling."

Ketchum police chief Cal Nevland worked for Drexler for a year and also remembered Drexler’s stress on spelling.

"It got to be a contest among we deputies," Nevland said, "to see who could slip a misspelling by him."

But he always caught them, made a red correction, and sent the report back to the deputy so the misspelling wouldn’t happen again.

Nevland also remembers that Drexler enforced a dress code that required a tie.

"We had to wear ties in the `70s when no one wore ties," he said. "In fact, you could tell when a federal agent was in the county because he had a tie on."

Ramsey remembered Drexler for his "low-key manner" and called him a "deliberately thoughtful law enforcement officer."

Besides the innovations of a countywide dispatch system and 911 system, Drexler introduced a records and reports filing system that became a model for state law enforcement agencies, Nevland said.

Femling said Drexler was responsible for moving the sheriff’s department and jail from the old county courthouse in 1974 to a new building on the corner of Walnut Street and First Avenue in Hailey. This is still the department’s home.

An obituary is on page A23 of the printed version of the Idaho Mountain Express.


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