By Joe Johnson
Athens-Clarke County Deputy Police Chief Mike Hunsinger has announced his candidacy for Oconee County Probate Court judge.
After spending more than three decades in local law enforcement, the Athens native is looking to serve his current hometown of Watkinsville, to where he and his family moved 15 years ago.
“I'm ready to work full time in the community our family calls home and look forward to serving our neighbors throughout Oconee County,” Hunsinger said.
He added, “I will be able to walk to work.”
Among the Probate Court judge’s roles are the administration of the estates of the deceased, appointing guardians and conservators of adults, issuing concealed weapon carry permits, probating wills, authorizing involuntary mental health hospitalizations, and adjudicating misdemeanor traffic offenses.
Although people have until March to qualify as Probate Court judge candidates, Hunsinger joins two others who have filed letters of intent that enables them to fundraise. They are Oconee County sheriff’s Capt. Jimmy Williams and Oconee Courthouse security supervisor Lt. George Roberts.
The incumbent judge, David Anglin, has not yet announced plans to run for reelection.
Hunsinger believes his experience in law enforcement and civic affairs will allow him to fairly and compassionately deal with matters that come before him as probate court judge.
“For those dealing with the probate of an estate, guardianship, conservatorship, or committal issues, I understand this difficult time in their life and have the compassion to help them through it,” Hunsinger said.
“Additionally, from my many years in law enforcement, I know that most people who appear in the Probate Court for violations of criminal or traffic laws are good people,” he said. “Unfortunately, those who may have just had a bad day or made a bad decision results in them being charged with an offense. I am committed to weighing the facts according to the law and basing my decision on what is fair and just for everyone.
Hunsinger noted that the May 19, 2020 nonpartisan election will coincide with the next U.S. census, which he said will confirm the growth of Oconee County. Along with a growing population will be an increased number of seniors and a resultant increased caseload for Probate Court.
“I am committed to working with our commissioners in a fiscally responsible manner to ensure the Probate Court has the resources it needs to accommodate our citizens with the service that they deserve,” Hunsinger said.
The veteran lawman began his career with the University of Georgia Police Department while still a student at UGA in 1987 and was assigned to the patrol and detective divisions. He joined the Clarke County Police Department in 1988, and two years later was promoted to detective and assigned to the Drug and Vice Unit.
Hunsinger remained in that position when the Athens and Clarke County governments unified in 1991, and conducted many investigations at the state, local and federal levels, oftentimes working undercover.
Leading up to and during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Hunsinger helped develop and manage covert threat identification teams that provided security at Olympic venues in Athens.
In 1998, he was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the Special Operations Unit of the Uniform Division, where he supervised officers who patrolled high-crime areas and Athens Housing Authority properties.
He took the helm of the Drug and Vice Unit in 1999 and was instrumental in forming the Northeast Georgia Regional Drug Task Force, which included investigators from the Athens-Clarke and UGA police departments, and deputies from the Oglethorpe County Sheriff’s Office.
Hunsinger oversaw hundreds of drug, commercial gambling and money-laundering investigations, and in 2012 the drug task force earned statewide recognition for dismantling an Athens-based drug-trafficking organization that flooded the region with thousands of pounds of marijuana and multiple kilos of cocaine.
Hunsinger represented Athens-Clarke police to the Georgia State Intelligence Network and Regional Organized Crime Information Center and is a board member of the Georgia Narcotics Enforcement Officers Association.
A graduate of the FBI National Academy, Hunsinger was awarded the 2006 Sherm Applebaum Award from the Athens Rotary Club, “in recognition of outstanding professionalism and community service.”
Hunsinger served as interim chief of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department from September 2018 to February of this year.
After moving to Watkinsville, Hunsinger immersed himself in local church and civic activities.
He is a member of Briarwood Baptist Church, where he has served as deacon since 2007, formerly chaired the Long-Range Planning Committee, leading the development of church campus expansion and new building planning and served on the Missions and Building committees.
He is former chair of the Oconee County Rotary Club’s Service Committee and is an assistant coach for the county’s Parks and Recreation Soccer league and Oconee County Little League baseball.
Hunsinger’s wife, Leslie and children Hannah and Tate are also active in church service.
Leslie Hunsinger is a court appointed special advocate (CASA) For Athens-Clarke and
serves on the Oconee County Recreation Affairs Committee.