SWU graduate keeps eye on safety, quality of life
Balancing a demanding work schedule and family time with earning a college degree can be tricky.
But Harold Reaves, director of Homeland Security for the City of Columbia and recent Southern Wesleyan University graduate, says it’s worth the effort.
“Southern Wesleyan University fit my needs with work and trying to do everything I was doing,” said Reaves, a licensed youth pastor with the Church of God.
“All of the faculty and staff at Southern Wesleyan University have really been supportive,” he said. “They have really worked to make it so I could finish my degree. They understand your life when you’re a parent and trying to go to school.”
Reaves earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southern Wesleyan University in December of 2007.
“It was very important to me that I get a degree from a Christian college,” he said.
Reaves is director of Homeland Security in for the City of Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina. He manages 45 personnel and commands a budget of $1.6 million. He takes control of the Emergency Operations Center as incident commander for various types of emergencies; coordinates police, fire and public works responses during natural disasters; works with the Community Safety Unit; and leads the Quality of Life Task Force, which addresses issues that improve the lives of people in Columbia.
“I’m a people person. I love people. In any type of service role, you have to earn people’s respect and trust,” Reaves said. “You have to be willing to listen to people.”
Reaves began working at the City of Columbia Police Department in 1986. During his years of police work, Reaves has received numerous professional awards, including Columbia Police Officer of the Year and Knights of Columbus Police Officer of the Year. He has also received more than 100 individual commendations.
After 22 years in law enforcement, Reaves is happy to be in Homeland Security, a department that responds in emergencies and improves people’s lives.
“There’s real value in coming up through the ranks. I’m proud of the relationships and partnerships I have developed in the Midlands,” Reaves said. “The City of Columbia has been good to me. The police department is a spoke on the wheel of city government and it takes all those departments to have a true impact on the quality of life for people in Columbia. We’ve got to be part of the whole team effort.”
Last year, Reaves was asked to fill in as interim police chief for the City of Columbia, which he did for several months before returning to his position in Homeland Security.
“I’m really honored that they could depend on me to take care of things while they’re looking to fill that position,” he said.
While attending classes and doing homework can be a juggling act, Reaves said he appreciated the help of those around him.
“I’m very grateful for those who have supported me with my career and going back to get my education. I have been blessed with a wonderful support base,” he said.
“When you’re in the workforce full-time, especially in law enforcement, the schedule is hard,” Reaves said. “I was very lucky to have the support of my supervisor. He had gone back to school and understood the challenges.
“My family was very supportive, too,” he said. Reaves’ wife of 25 years, his daughter and his son were understanding about his demanding schedule.
“We tried to capitalize on the time we had together,” he said. “SWU taught us to balance our lives. You have to be there for your family too. Education is important, but you have to balance it.
“I’m very proud of my family and the support they’ve given me. I’m really proud of my children – I couldn’t have asked for more spectacular children,” Reaves said.
He especially credits SWU associate professor of English Randy Rankin and his wife, Annis. “They have really been very supportive,” Reaves said.
Looking to the future, Reaves said he hopes to continue his education.
“I’m considering working on my master’s degree,” he said. “I don’t think you can ever get too much education.” In three years, Reaves will be eligible to retire from law enforcement and may decide to pursue a totally different career then, he said.
“I’ve been very blessed with opportunities. I believe the Lord places people to make a difference. I’m very grateful for the opportunities the Lord has blessed me with along the way,” Reaves said.