Retiring Capt. Blanton reflects on two decades of service to Wrightsville Beach


Going from one of the few women officers of her day to leading the criminal investigative division, Capt. Valerie Blanton retired in November after 21 years of service in the Wrightsville Beach Police Department.
Blanton got her start at the Wrightsville Beach Police Department in 1997, going on patrol at a time when officers still checked the parking meters and winters weren’t as active as they are now.
“Over the years, we’ve had some of the same problems,” she said.
Over her years on patrol, Blanton developed a specialty, as speeders in the school zone got a taste of her zeal for her profession.
“Every third card, there was a driving during revocation, weed or an outstanding warrant,” said Blanton of her reputation for finding significant violations during these traffic stops. “Every day shift was like fishing in a barrel for me.”
While Blanton put in more than two decades at the Wrightsville Beach Police Department, she wasn’t a rookie when she started. Her first experience on the beat came in the early 1980s at the Rocky Mountain Police Department. She moved to New Hanover County in 1991, where she eventually served as a reserve officer both here and in Carolina Beach before accepting the full-time position in Wrightsville Beach.
“I always loved being on the street,” Blanton said. However, after Dan House assumed the role as police chief early this decade, Blanton earned the opportunity to assume a leadership role, leaving
“I wasn’t a spring chicken. Twelve hour rotating shifts at the age of 46 can be demanding,” she said.
When Blanton entered police work in the early 1980s, there was a push to bring more women and minorities into departments. She was only one of two females on the Rocky Mount force when she started and attitudes towards women police officers were different then. And in a career that spanned over four decades, Blanton said she’s had the opportunity to watch women grow more accepted, while providing mentoring to the rookie female officers that joined the department.
“Compared to when I started, it’s like night and day,” Blanton said.
But whether man or woman, Blanton said the key to being a good police officer hasn’t changed much since when she started.
You have to have a good education, and you have to have realistic expectations,” she said. “It takes time to become a good cop. It takes a good three years for an officer to develop.”
And while she may have seen a lot in her two decades of service to Wrightsville Beach, what may have made the biggest impact was Hurricane Florence.
“In 1997, we had two hurricanes back to back, but this one scared me,” she said. “I rode this beach thinking about how this may not be here when we get back.”
And while Blanton may be retired, she’s not done with Wrightsville Beach. She’ll be working part time helping manage property and evidence. But in the meantime, she’ll mainly be focusing on being the mom to seven dogs, while holding close the memory of her experience here.
“I can’t emphasize how much I’ve enjoyed, and all of these people have been part of my journey,” she said. “It takes all of us to make this family work.”

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