By Joe Johnson
A popular veteran Athens-Clarke County police officer who won accolades for his dedication to community-policing has been hired by Social Circle as its new chief of police, the Walton County community announced on Sunday.
Capt. Will "Willie" Brinkley has been a valued member of the local police department, serving various roles throughout his 25-year career with the agency, with more than 30 years in law enforcement overall.
He officially takes the helm of the Social Circle Police Department on May 4.
Brinkley was a top candidate when Social Circle chose Jeff Fuesting for the position last year, the Walton Tribune reported on Saturday, but Fuesting resigned as of Sunday to take a job in the private sector.
City Manager Adele Schirmer told the newspaper that Binkley was a top candidate when the position came open in 2019, upon then-chief Tyrone Oliver’s appointment as the state commissioner of juvenile justice.
She said Brinkley was still interested when approached last week, the Tribune reported.
Schirmer said Brinkley’s references described him as “a genuine, transparent person of integrity who respects people and achieves success by building long-term positive relationships” through his career., according to the Tribune. “He has led officers and shift supervisors through their many stages of training, being attentive to their questions while putting the needs of the citizens as a top priority,” she said.
Brinkley once told this reporter that when deciding on what to do with his life, he was not necessarily looking to make a career in law enforcement.
He said that when growing up in the city of Madison he thought that he might become a teacher.
He also toyed with the idea of being a cop.
The law won out, with Brinkley falling under the influence of his father, grandfather, cousins and an uncle who all wore the badge before him.
Brinkley began his career as a police officer in 1989 with the Madison Police Department and worked with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office for four years before being hired as an Athens-Clarke County officer in 1995.
Just two years on the local police force, Brinkley received the Athens-Clarke County Leadership Council’s Community Policing Award for facilitating projects that significantly decreased criminal activity in the so-called Iron Triangle section of east Athens.
As a senior police officer, he served as his department’s Weed and Seed coordinator.
In 2002, VFW Post 2872 recognized Brinkley as police officer of the year for “meritorious community service and exceptional leadership ability.”
The Athens Housing Authority bestowed its community service award on him for improving communication between housing officials and police.
The officer said he always gave back to the community because he was part of it, raising with his wife, Robin, his children in Athens and serving on Cedar Shoals High School’s Parent Advisory Board and on the school’s council that included administrators, teachers, parents and business partners.
Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Cleveland Spruill described Brinkley as having been an integral part of the local police department’s command staff, who was well-liked and respected.
“His positive outlook, wealth of knowledge and experience will be missed,” Spruill said.