ENC sheriff speaks on her history-making moment during Black History Month

PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – With February being Black History Month; WITN is highlighting an Eastern Carolina leader who made history, not just in Pitt County but also in North Carolina.

In December of 2018, the Paula Dance became part of our area’s history.

“I am the first black sheriff ever for Pitt County. I am the first black female sheriff for the state of North Carolina,” said Pitt County Sheriff Paula Dance.

Serving Pitt County, the 14th largest county in North Carolina, is no small task, but she came into office with a plan.

“I came in absolutely with goals and objectives that I wanted to make sure I accomplished during my tenure,” said Dance.

Dance said while serving is one of her greatest honors, she didn’t run to make history.

“I didn’t run to the be first; I didn’t run to be the first black. I didn’t run to be the first woman; I ran to be the best sheriff,” said Dance.

Sergeant Lee Darnell has worked with Dance for about 15 years. “She’s incredible to work with. She’s very open-minded. She has three-plus decades of experience, that’s incredible. She’s really shocked me since she has become sheriff,” said Darnell.

Dance says she hopes her story can open doors for others in the future. “I hope that my journey will be a survival guide for little girls that decide that they can do it and that they want to do it.”

Darnell said he doesn’t see her as the first black female sheriff – he just sees her as someone who is leading Pitt County; he just sees her as the sheriff.

Dance was re-elected for a second term in 2022.