AUBURN — DeKalb County Prosecuting Attorney ClaraMary Winebrenner has confirmed she will not seek another term in office and will retire at the conclusion of her current term in December 2022.
Winebrenner is in her fourth elected term as prosecutor. When she retires at the end of next year, she will have served 17 years as prosecutor. For her first year in office, she was picked by a caucus to fill the remaining term of then-prosecutor Monte Brown, who became judge of DeKalb Superior Court II.
Winebrenner believes she was meant to be a prosecutor.
Prior to becoming prosecutor, she had worked as a part-time deputy prosecutor as well as in private practice with her father, Grant VanHorne.
Her father had served as a deputy prosecutor under Charles Winans, who was prosecutor in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“I remember finding his (her father’s) badge and playing with his badge, and I thought that was pretty cool,” Winebrenner said.
“I was born and raised here. I think the people I went to high school with would tell you I’m just a law-and-order, by-the-book … sort of person. I was just made to be a prosecutor. My heart was always in prosecuting. I always knew that’s what I wanted.”
Reflecting on her time in the office, Winebrenner said, “One of the things I did that was a big change was I took the office digital back in 2013. Now, we’re at a point where we really need to up it another generation … so we’re working to look at what the next step is in this highly digital world for our files and our evidence and our procedures.”
Between the prosecutor’s office and the IV-D child support enforcement office, she has added a full-time and part-time prosecutor, a secretarial staff member and part-time secretarial staff position during her tenure.
When she leaves the office, Winebrenner said, she wants to make sure she has it “in high-functioning order.”
“People forget sometimes that we are just the steward of the office for a period of time. The office goes on. The prosecutor is just the steward for a while, and this has been my time to be the steward, but I want to make sure I turn it over in really good condition.”
Of her decision to not seek another term in office, she said, “I was meant to do this job. I love this job, but I’m tired, as well as I’d like to spend some time with my husband, and I’m going to retire so I can do some fun things, some traveling maybe, some hobbies that I haven’t been able to find time for. ... so now, I think, is the time.”
“I have to thank my family for hanging in there with me because this is a profession, not just a job, and they have all paid for what I do,” Winebrenner said.
“I’ve been privileged to be the prosecutor of DeKalb County, to do the job that fits me, but also, I hope and expect, really benefits this community that I love — protects and does justice, which are important to our social fabric.
“I’ve been privileged to work with great people. The employees in this office have always been a well-working team. Everybody in this office takes it personally, to do a good job.
“The DeKalb County government is remarkably cohesive … In DeKalb County, we’ve always had well-meaning people who tried to work together with good competence. That’s a huge benefit for DeKalb County — that the different organizations and offices work hard to work together.”