Fire Chief Cobb wins Citizen of Year

Fire Chief Cobb named first ever 'Citizen of Year'
Posted on 09/07/2018
Columbia Fire Chief Ty Cobb


Fire Chief Ty Cobb thought he was going to Thursday night’s “Best of Maury County” awards to give a presentation on the new Firefighters Park in downtown Columbia.

The former state representative left with tears in his eyes and the first Citizen of the Year Award from 
The Daily Herald’s readers. An all-time high of 107,000 voters in the poll.

“I only thought I was there to talk about Firefighters Park and promote the park with citizens and business owners,” Cobb said.

The 40-year-old Columbia native, who was raised in Pulaski, knew he was a finalist for the Citizen of the Year. Others were the late 
Daily Herald Sports Editor Marion Wilhoite, Columbia Power and Water’s Kelley McCall and retired Columbia Dr. Eslick Daniel. Wilhoite died Nov. 15, 2017 at 76.

Cobb thought Wilhoite, his longtime friend, would win. Wilhoite was sports editor of the newspaper for 54 years.

When it was apparent Cobb was the winner, he saw his mother (Ann), father (Danny) and wife (Cara) in the room, and his eyes filled with tears. He did not know they had been invited.

“When I saw my mom so happy, it choked me up,” Cobb said. “I just could not help it.”

Cobb was named fire chief one year ago after the death of former chief Tommy Hemphill.

Assistant Fire Chiefs Tony Scott and Chris Cummins, City Manager Tony Massey and Mayor Dean Dickey also attended the event, knowing Cobb was going to win.

“When I think about the other the finalists for the award... they are great people and served their community above and beyond the call of duty,” Cobb said.

Daniel previously served on the Boys & Girls Clubs of Maury County board of directors with Cobb.

“I’ve been apart of many community events with Dr. Daniel,” Cobb said. “He is also a person that gives everyday to others especially our young people.”

McCall served as Columbia Power’s interim director last year.

“Kelley helps lead a great organization at CPWS.” Cobb said. “She is always kind, caring and apart of so many things.

“What an honor it was to be nominated with three great Maury Countians. It was special night,” he added.

Cobb grew up as the son of two school teachers. His father also worked at the Fafner plant in Pulaski, and his mother sold Mary Kay cosmetics on the side. They taught him responsibility and the importance of public service, he said.

“I would never do anything to embarrass or disappoint my parents with the way they raised me,” Cobb said. “I had perfect attendance all through school and never missed a day. But my parents were teachers and taught me to work hard and don’t miss anything.”

The Citizen of the Year Award was the brainchild of 
Daily Heraldpublisher Keith Ponder. Readers have voted on a Best Public Official Award since the beginning of the “Best of Maury County Awards” 15 years ago. But by creating a Citizen of the Year, the presentation allowed readers and the newspaper to honor non-elected folks.

“We wanted to enhance our program and recognize people making significant contributions to our community’s quality of life,” Ponder said.

The newspaper is celebrating its 170 anniversary this year as the oldest continuous business in Maury County. The fire department is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

“It is interesting that we’ve both reached milestones,” Cobb said. “
The Herald has been an excellent media partner for us when it comes to educating our communities on fire safety and other public safety issues.”

As Cobb watched his mother beaming Thursday night, he remembered the support she gave him as a teenager attending Richland High School in Giles County.

“My mom told me I could be whatever I wanted to .. if I worked hard and earned it fairly,” Cobb said. “She told me when I was a kid that I was a people person, and being a firefighter put me touch with people and serving others. I think she saw that I tried to always help.”

Our readers saw the same qualities in picking him as the first Citizen of the Year.


You may also access the article on the Columbia Daily Herald’s website at  

About James Bennett

James Bennett is editor of The Daily Herald. His column is based on exclusive reporting, old-school storytelling and original commentary on whatever catches his fancy or yours. He’s been a Tennessee Press Association first-place award winner for editorial writing, news reporting and public service since joining the newspaper in 2014. Contact him at