House District 54 Republican primary: Ray Scott profile
Ray Scott is a worker bee.
At 53, the House District 54 candidate still prefers to work with his hands, but he will take on a leadership role when he needs to.
That’s how his life started and has been ever since.
Growing up in Rifle, Scott had hoped to go to college before his father, Colorado State Patrol trooper Walter Scott, died of bone cancer.
“As an 18-year-old kid, that kind of screwed me up a little bit, obviously,” Scott said. “Plus, my mother (Lillian) couldn’t afford to send me off to school.”
After graduating from Rifle High School in 1975, Scott worked his way to Grand Junction in search of a job. He landed at a Conoco railroad transfer station, where he immediately was made a terminal manager.
That role led to a promotion to operate a products terminal in Artesia, N.M., a place he and his wife, Roxie, didn’t enjoy.
“Ever been there?” Scott asked. “Do not waste the gas, trust me. It’s basically a refinery, and they’ve built a city around it. You wake up to the smell of crude oil.”
He and his wife, who was pregnant with their first daughter (they have two), couldn’t wait to get out of town. Just to see a patch of green and anything that resembled a mountain, the couple had to drive two hours west to Ruidoso.
After only a year there — his wife had “highly suggested” they return to the Grand Valley — Scott got a job as an operations manager for Williams Energy’s propane gas division in Grand Junction, where he managed more than 400 people.
He was 25.
“I was a big kid, so they did what I told them,” he joked. “That helped a lot. Intimidation always works.”
During the early 1980s, when the price of gasoline was much higher than propane, he was involved in efforts to convert fleet vehicles, public and private, to burn propane. That’s what got him involved in the business he continues to operate today.
In 1990, he started Gas Products Corp., selling high-end fireplaces around the Rocky Mountain region.
“We’re very busy right now, but we’re busy in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Denver, Colorado; Aspen; Vail; Telluride,” he said.
Eventually, he located his business in a bonding warehouse at 2522 U.S. Highway 6&50. Soon, the owner of that building, Skyline Logistics, asked if Scott was interested in buying the business, which he has since renamed Skyline Warehouse.
Scott thought as any good businessman might, that diversifying is a good thing.
“I didn’t know what a logistics company was,” he said. “We are a warehouse for other people. We ship stuff out. We’ve done clothing here. We’ve done many different things.”
A few years after his eldest daughter, Shaylyn, married in 2002, Scott’s new son-in-law, T.J. Hines, suggested a third business that the two could work together on, Coolwater Homes.
Leta Wilburn, a real estate agent in town who lists many of Scott’s homes, said that in the many years she has worked with him, she has been impressed that a man who never worked in the building industry took to it so well.
“He’s been forthright in everything that he’s said,” Wilburn said. “He builds beautiful homes, and he’s stood behind every single one. When anything comes up, just one phone call and he’s on it. That’s not been true with a lot of folks I’ve worked with.”
Scott’s firm builds a few homes at a time and is building homes in Montrose under a fourth company he created, Scott Land Development. That project is a half-completed 13-lot subdivision known as Cottage Grove, which Scott wishes he hadn’t started.
“It’s just tough right now, the market, I mean,” he said. “We build one, sell it, build another. I’m being as conservative as I can ‘cause banks just won’t work with you right now. Still, if that airplane factory goes in, I’m going to look like a genius.”
Extra Aircraft LLC announced last week it, indeed, will build that factory in the city.
It was Scott’s experience with the Montrose housing project that got him interested in politics, but at the time it wasn’t the Colorado Legislature he had in mind.
Scott was toying with the idea of running against Democratic U.S. Rep. John Salazar for the 3rd Congressional District after running into some federal banking issues he didn’t think made sense.
Now that Scott is intent on becoming a politician, the one person who has known him all of his life jokingly wonders where she went wrong. His mother, Lillian, said that while she has been impressed with his other accomplishments in life, she never expected him to seek elected office.
“He was always determined to finish what he started,” the Grand Junction resident said. “He was a typical kid. School was not his favorite thing by any means, and with his dad dying at a young age, it certainly had an impact on him. But a politician? Not in my wildest. I just want him to be happy. He’s determined, though.”
It didn’t take long for Scott to get the message that it might be better to cut his political teeth in the state House. He talked to several people, including former congressman Scott McInnis, who is running for the GOP nomination for governor.
He said McInnis persuaded him to seek office elsewhere because he had no name recognition and little money.
Knowing that Rep. Steve King planned to run for the state Senate, Scott turned his sights on the House.
“I’m learning that politics is everything that you’ve ever been told it is, except the smoke-filled room because that’s not politically correct to smoke anymore, but the room is still there,” he said. “If you don’t kiss the right rings, you’re in trouble. If you don’t talk to the right people, you’re in trouble. I did none of the above. I became this tea party candidate by default. I was not catering to anybody. I was just being a regular guy.”