Smith County’s first female fire marshal, Connie McCoy-Wasson, was honored Tuesday during Commissioners Court for 25 years of service to the county.
After working her way up in the Fire Marshal’s Office, Mrs. McCoy-Wasson became the first woman to head the office in November 2015.
Mrs. McCoy-Wasson served as deputy fire marshal for more than 20 years.
“She has worked hard in every position the Fire Marshal’s Office has to offer,” Assistant Fire Marshal Chad Hogue said. She is the county’s fire marshal, as well as its emergency management coordinator. She also is chairwoman of the Local Emergency Planning Committee and treasurer of the Smith County Volunteer Fireman’s Association.
“People like Connie Wasson are rare,” Hogue said. “We are proud to be working for the Fire Marshal’s Office.”
Smith County Administrator Leonardo Brown said it is a pleasure to be working with people who have a willing and positive attitude, like Mrs. McCoy-Wasson.
Mrs. McCoy-Wasson said she was a single mother raising two boys in 1993, when she was hired as secretary by the late Fire Marshal Charles Shine. She was soon asked to help work fires and went to school and earned her certifications to become a firefighter, investigator and inspector, as well as earning her peace officer license.
When she started, she was not easily accepted because there were no female firefighters.
When they asked her how she could fight fires with long blonde hair and nails, she told the men that her hair would fit underneath a helmet just like theirs did.
She had to work hard to prove herself and after three years, she felt she was finally beginning to be accepted by her male counterparts.
“In the last 25 years, I’ve seen so many things I never thought I’d see,” she said.
From fighting large commercial fires to inspecting foster homes and helping residents with recovery and clean up after a tornado, Mrs. McCoy-Wasson said, “You know you’re here for a reason. You know you’re making a difference in the citizen’s life. That’s why we do this job.”
Several other Smith County employees were also recognized for their years of service to the county during Smith County Commissioners Court on Tuesday.
20 YEARS OF SERVICE
Bridget Pryor was recognized during Commissioners Court for 20 years of service to the Adult Probation Department.
In 1998, Ms. Pryor began working in the misdemeanor unit before moving to felonies. She was a probation officer for the 114th District Court for 12 years before she began working in the civil division. Since 2016, she has worked in the child support unit as a court officer for County Court-at-Law Judges Jason Ellis and Randall Rogers.
“Probation is very proud to have her,” Kasey Quezada said when presenting Ms. Pryor with the recognition. “We’re proud to have her as part of our team.”
Smith County Juvenile Services Director Ross Worley honored Larita Arthur for 20 years of service to the county.
She began as a supervision officer, then worked as a supervisor and now does all of the training for Juvenile Services. “She does great work,” he said. “Congratulations.”
“It has been a roller coaster ride I would take again,” Ms. Arthur said.
10 YEARS OF SERVICE
Amber Clark was recognized for 10 years of working for the Smith County Adult Probation Department.
She works in the pre-trial unit, supervising people who are out of jail on conditions of bond.
“She does an excellent job,” Mandy Zehren said. “I want to thank her for her 10 years of service to our county.”
Smith County Tax Assessor-Collector Gary Barber honored Cathy Sowells for working 10 years in his office. She started as a front window clerk and now is a supervisor in the property tax department.
“It’s a pleasure,” he said.
Smith County employees who were also recognized this month for their years of service to the county, but who were not present in court, include:
15 Years: Hope Woods, Sheriff’s Department.