By RUBEN LOWMAN
North Myrtle Beach swore in the first woman to be named police chief in its 55-year history during a heartfelt ceremony held at City Hall last week.
Dana Crowell, a Loris native who has been with the NMB Police Department for more than 20 years, was promoted from captain to police chief last Friday evening, Jan. 6, as former chief Tommy Dennis retired from the force and was simultaneously sworn in as an associate judge for the city.
NMB City Manager Mike Mahaney said he selected Crowell “to take our police department to the next level” because she is the right person at this time in the city’s continuing development.
With Dennis’ decision to retire, Mahaney’s appointment of Crowell makes her the first female police chief to lead North Myrtle Beach since it was formed from four distinct beach towns in 1968. She previously held the position of captain and has been responsible for the daily operations of the agency, along with internal investigations and departmental hiring.
City Hall was packed to maximum capacity for the swearing-in ceremony, with family members, city leaders, law enforcement personnel from several local municipalities and retired former members of the NMBPD all in attendance.
Jay Ortiz, the chaplain for the NMB Department of Public Safety, began the evening with the invocation before Mahaney spoke about the many unique qualities that Crowell possesses that make her a perfect choice for the position.
Crowell then stepped to the podium and spoke glowingly of Dennis and his character, both as a person and as a fellow officer and head of the police department. Dennis, having held several different law enforcement roles within the city over his nearly 30-year career, has always been a faithful servant to NMB and its residents and to the men and women who make up the department of public safety, Crowell said.
Dennis and Crowell served alongside each other in the investigations wing of the department, where she said she learned he had an “amazing mind” and he was one of the most kind, caring, selfless and considerate people she has ever met.
“Tommy is salt of the earth, he is a good human being,” Crowell said. “He is a wonderful person who always puts people first. It’s not about the mission, it’s about people.”
Having taken over as police chief in September 2020, Dennis helped to guide the department through “one of the darkest times in our agency,” Crowell said, when Sgt. Gordon Best was killed in the line of duty the following January.
“And that was one of the darkest and most difficult times of my entire 22-year career here and this man stepped up,” Crowell said about Dennis. “And I think I speak for every man, every woman that works in the department, that he led us, he put us first… he got us through the last two years.”
North Myrtle Beach Fire Chief Garry Spain presented the former police chief with a “token of appreciation” from his department, gifting Dennis with a ceremonial axe in recognition of his time spent with NMB Fire Rescue earlier in his career. It is a tradition for retiring firefighters to receive the honorary axe, and since Dennis had served in that capacity when the city still had dual roles within the two departments, Spain said it was the right thing to do in honor of his good friend and colleague.
Dennis also received a shadow box from fellow law enforcement members at NMBPD that contained many different mementos from his lengthy career within the force.
Chief Judge Dean Mureddu then swore Dennis in under his new role as an associate judge for the city’s municipal court, with Dennis’ wife holding the Bible for her husband.
After being on the receiving end of the plaudits, the former police chief and now associate judge then got his chance to commend Crowell for all of her exceptional work and special qualities that have led her to take over the department following his retirement.
“She is an amazing woman, a workhorse, I really don’t know how she does what she does,” Dennis said. “She has worn so many hats, she has done just about everything.”
Dennis acknowledged the multitude of roles Crowell has had within the police department, running the gamut from leading investigations to supervising nearly division as she climbed the ranks within the agency to even being a K9 handler earlier in her career.
“She has shown such passion for our people, the people within this department, the people in the city,” Dennis said. He said that as he has watched Crowell grow within the department, he knew the day would come where she would be named chief of the city.
“That passion and fire within her drove her to learn and take every ounce of knowledge she could,” Dennis said of Crowell, “because she genuinely cares about her people and she knew she could help our department be the best around, and for this city to have peace of mind knowing they are well taken care of by their finest.”
Following his remarks, Dennis then swore Crowell in under her new position of chief of police, while her husband held her Bible and then pinned the chief’s badge onto her uniform after Dennis removed it from his own.
The new police chief then spoke after being sworn in, acknowledging her family for supporting her throughout her career, fellow law enforcement members for helping her as she climbed the ranks, as well as city leaders for giving her the opportunity to lead North Myrtle Beach into the next stage of its development.
“When I look around this room I see a lot of love. I see a lot of effort, energy and time that has propelled me to be able to stand here today,” Crowell said. “I did not get here by myself, I got here through a lot of effort and it wasn’t always mine, it was the people in this room that are surrounding me and have taken care of me. You know how much I love and appreciate that and I thank you so much.”
Crowell’s humility and honesty shined through during her speech in accepting her new role as police chief, continuously recognizing all those around her who have enabled her to accomplish everything she has in her career.
“I am humbled and honored to be given this opportunity to lead and serve the men and women of one of the finest police organizations in this state,” Crowell said in her closing remarks. “I am so excited to what God has in store for our agency. Thank you.”