GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Pitt County Sheriff Paula Dance is making history.

Dance is the first African-American woman to be elected sheriff in Pitt County. She is also the first African-American female sheriff in North Carolina history.

Dance says law enforcement was not her first choice. She started work as a clerk at the Martin County Sheriff’s Office in Williamston. This is where her love for the law blossomed.

“It was not until then when I was working at the sheriff’s office in my community or in my home community that I suddenly had an epiphany one day that this is what I love about coming to work. This is what I like doing, and so that started my career,” Dance said.

Our Black History Month special airs Feb. 24 at 5:30 p.m. on WNCT. You can also see it Friday night at

Dance said she wanted to prove that women have value in every aspect of life, so during her time in Pitt County, she moved up in the ranks. She decided to run for sheriff in 2018.

“I looked around me and I said ‘You know what, nobody’s story is any better than the story that I have had.’ That I have built. I didn’t feel like anyone else had as much experience as I did,” Dance said.

She won the 2018 election and was sworn in December of that year. In 2022, she hit another major milestone by winning a second term as Pitt County sheriff.

“A lot of thick skin has to come along with that because I face something that no other person who is running for sheriff had to face, being a person of color and being a woman,” Dance said.

She quickly realized with great achievements come great challenges.

“Picking and choosing the battles was most important for me because I learned that fighting a whole lot of battles will take you off of your game, will take you away from what your goal is.”

Under her leadership, she focuses on diversity, implementing programs such as the women’s empowerment and recovery program as well as starting a GED program. Her main focus is making sure people remain out of jail once they’re done serving time.

The one thing Dance hopes she can do once her second term is over is to be an inspiration to young black girls everywhere.

“Dare to dream, work hard, have ideas, and get a seat at the table,” she said.