Tom Coe


Longtime acting Frederick County Fire Chief Tom Coe was named the new director of the division after a unanimous vote Tuesday by the County Council.

Coe, who has been with the Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services since he graduated with the agency’s fourth recruit class in 2000, had served as the division’s acting chief since July 1. Tom Owens, the previous chief, stepped down to retire.

The county undertook a national search for applicants after Owens’ retirement while also considering internal candidates like Coe, who had held the position of deputy chief of emergency services before Owens’ departure. County Executive Jan Gardner (D) moved to appoint Coe full-time chief, but approval was dependent upon a vote of the council.

The appointment became official after a vote passed the County Council 7-0 on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be trusted by the county executive and the County Council to lead such a great group of public safety professionals,” Coe said when reached for comment after Tuesday’s vote.

Gardner expressed her satisfaction with the council’s approval, praising Coe in a statement included with a press release from her office after Tuesday’s vote.

“Tom’s knowledge and ability to manage our combination fire service makes him the clear choice to lead the division. He is a problem-solver, identifying ways to serve our growing community with an outstanding level of care and professionalism, and he is well respected by both career and volunteer staff,” the statement reads.

County Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer, speaking after the meeting, said the decision to approve Coe’s appointment was an easy one to make.

“It’s making sure we have the staffing available to be able to respond in case of an emergency,” she said, adding that the volunteer and career firefighter balance will be important moving forward. That issue is prevalent because of the county’s aging population, she said.

Over the course of his career, Coe has overseen the implementation of the county’s Hazardous Materials Response Team and oversaw the Special Operations functions. Coe also served as Emergency Medical Services battalion chief before being promoted to deputy chief. Still, the chief remained humble when asked about how his accomplishments had prepared him for his newest leadership role.

“Really more than things that I’ve done, it’s been the experiences I’ve had working with some truly outstanding mentors who really kind of showed me the ropes as I’ve moved up through different leadership positions that have really prepared me for this,” Coe said, adding that he was also thankful to his loving support network, both his relatives and his work family.

With the looming possibility that the coronavirus may arrive soon in Frederick County, ongoing efforts to further solidify the relationship between career firefighters and county volunteer agencies and another class of 30 recruits that will join the 57 recruits in training at the agency’s training center on Monday, Coe expects to have his hands full from the beginning of his new appointment.

Coe said he was particularly interested to continue refining the relationship between career firefighters and volunteer agencies to make sure everyone is on the same page and can better serve the residents of the county moving forward with a unified goal and purpose.

Staff writer Steve Bohnel contributed to this report.

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Jeremy Arias is the Frederick city and government reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

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