Ashland Police Chief Lyn Woolford wears a lot of hats — parrot hats, reindeer hats, taco hats.

He also wears a lot of hats in the metaphorical sense. Woolford for years has served as a school crossing guard in addition to his law enforcement duties, which could earn him a very prestigious honor.

Woolford is currently in second place out of about 170 applicants for the title of America’s Favorite Crossing Guard, a competition sponsored by Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit with the mission of helping to prevent accidental injuries to children.

“One of the parents in the community asked if it would be OK if they submitted me as America's Favorite Crossing Guard,” Woolford said. “I was fine with it, absolutely. It’s all based on community voting, and the benefit is there are monetary awards and the money goes to the school district.”

The chief said he started serving as crossing guard shortly after being hired in 2013, partially because he wanted to get familiar with the community and also because the school needed help.

“I started at the middle school, observing traffic up there because that is my background,” he said. “There was an issue up there, but parents stopped and asked me if I had seen the intersection where the primary school is located. I went down there and it was a mess, just because of the number of vehicles and because it’s a four-way stop. It was really congested.”

Woolford started directing traffic that day and has continued every school day since. The kids liked seeing the chief there and began waving at him. He then began wearing funny hats on the holidays — such as a Santa hat at Christmas and a green hat on St. Patrick’s Day.

“I started wearing hats and the kids would smile and wave," he said. "It was working out as a great introduction of a police officer to the kids. It morphed into the parents starting to buy hats and asking if I would wear them, and I said absolutely. I’ve got 29 hats now.”

Woolford said the hats helped make him more approachable and it’s garnered a lot of support in the community.

“You see on police cars to protect and serve, not so much anymore but that was a big motto over the years in my career,” Woolford said. “This is the service part for sure. Find a problem and fix it, or at least make it better. That’s my gauge for success — are we doing things right and making things better.”

Amy James, principal at Southern Boone Elementary, said the school is appreciative that Ashland police have helped with crossing duties at the school and the kids love Woolford’s hat collection.

“We are so grateful for the Ashland (Police Department) partnering with us and giving us the opportunity to have Chief Woolford out there,” she said. “The students feel safe because he’s able to direct traffic to get some of the congestion out of there. The kids love the hats. They are anxiously waiting each day to rush out to see what he’s going to wear.”

Safe Kids senior program manager Kristin Rosenthal said the organization and partner FedEx launched the America’s Favorite Crossing Guard campaign to raise awareness about the tremendous contribution that crossing guards make to protect kids in school zones.

“The America's Favorite Crossing Guard was designed to really say thank you and acknowledge all the folks out there, either paid or volunteer who keep our kids safe every day on their way to school,” Rosenthal said. “We know It can be dangerous in school zones with all the pick ups and drop offs, and chaotic mornings and afternoons, with the parents trying to get in and the buses.”

First place will earn the winning school $10,000. Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. Friday and anyone can vote once a day at A panel of judges will select the the winner from the top five contestants. Chief Woolford was only 578 votes behind as of press time Wednesday.