CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — She’s a “Jill of all trades” that’s called a go-to person in every aspect of life, and that’s the impression you’ll get from Heather Wilson from the moment you meet her.
Whether its work, family or serving her community, she is all-in for giving back.
We first met Wilson at the Horry County Police Department, where she’s had a strong hand in keeping your family safe in Horry County since 2005. She’s worked her way up from street patrol to breaking a department gender barrier — becoming the first woman to lead Horry County’s crime scene unit. Today she holds the rank of lieutenant and plays a pivotal role in bringing the most dangerous criminals to justice.
We found out her love for policing and criminal justice started at an early age.
“I just always wanted to be a police officer,” she said. “My grandpa would make handcuffs out of these long pieces of grass. I’d arrest him and the neighbor across the street.”
Wilson’s peers at the Horry County Police Department consider her a part of the backbone of local crime fighting. She’s served as a homicide detective, lead negotiator and PEER team leader through the years, as well.
“You can turn [Wilson] loose with anything and she’ll bring you back a roasted turkey,” explained Horry County Police Deputy Chief Kenneth Davis. “It’s always perfect. It’s perfect. I’ve been in this work for over 30 years and I’ve worked with many different females. I’ve never worked with one that’s as persistent or as caring or as willing to tell me everything she feels about a case. I value that.”
Wilson is now about 23 years deep into her public safety career, after getting her start in the field in 1999 in Virginia. Her list of awards and accomplishments during her time in Horry County continues to grow by the year — including the 2009 HCPD Negotiator of the Year, 2009 HCPD Officer of the year, 2014 Coastal Carolina Shields Officer of the Year, 2014 VFW Law Enforcement Award recipient, 2018 HCPD Medal of Valor and the 2019 FBI-LEEDA Trilogy Award.
Several of those awards came after saving her partner’s life in 2014, when a man put a gun to her partner’s chest while the two served a warrant.
“It’s not something any police officer wants to do. It’s just part of the job and unfortunately, I didn’t have a choice. It was either my partner or the guy,” she recalled.
Wilson says that split-second moment and decision changed her and became a driving force to help her fellow brothers and sisters in blue, as part of the department’s PEER counseling team.
“After that, I recognized how important the PEER group was and the program was, so then I wanted to get involved to give back so I can help other people,” she said.
Today, she calls that role one of her favorite parts of the job.
While her professional accomplishments and involvement in many facets of the Horry County Police Department have spoken for themselves over the years, she’s quick to tell you her biggest accomplishment is the beautiful family she goes home to every night.
Wilson’s husband also serves in law enforcement and she’s the proud mother of three children — one of whom her family’s in the process of adopting.
Her father-in-law who nominated her, Ron Wilson, gushed about how Wilson makes her family the highest priority. That was easy to see the moment we asked Wilson about them.
“Kids look for us,” she said. “They want us to be there. They want us to be involved regardless of what they say. They probably wouldn’t tell their parent, but it does affect them. So I always try my best to be there for mine to show them that I care and I love them — that I support them.”
Through the years in her spare time, Wilson’s served as president of Socastee High School’s Band Booster Club, was active in local Boy Scouts and even served a stint as a soccer coach. Wilson told us she’s always wanted to make a positive influence not only on her own children but also those that call them their friends.
“It’s nice to be able to give back to help those children, as well, so they know that there’s someone who cares,” she explained.
Wilson has seemingly proved over the years that the sky is the limit — both personally and professionally. As for her future, Wilson says she’s focusing on the short term — loving where she works, her career, her family and making a difference.
“That’s more important than the money you make,” Wilson said. “You really have to enjoy what you’re doing.”