Craig Hunter, a 38-year law enforcement veteran, has been selected as director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Division. He will pin on his colonel’s badge Aug. 1.
Hunter, previously second-in-command of the state’s game wardens, succeeds Pete Flores, who retired at the end of May. David Sinclair, who had been serving as acting colonel during the interview and selection process, will be retiring July 31 after 40 years with TPWD.
“Col. Hunter has more than earned this promotion,” said TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith. “He stands out because of his experience, his credibility and the respect he enjoys inside and outside the agency, not to mention his demonstrable ability to effectively lead a team. I have nothing but the highest degree of respect and confidence in him.”
As TPWD Law Enforcement Division director, Col. Hunter will oversee a force of 532 highly trained state game wardens that provides law enforcement “off the pavement” across Texas. Though state game wardens focus primarily on conservation laws, they are fully commissioned peace officers authorized to enforce all state statutes.
“It is truly an honor and privilege to serve as the Law Enforcement Division director,” Hunter said. ”I look forward to continue working with the great men and women wearing the blue state game warden badge. Our priorities will remain public safety and the protection of our natural resources.”
Currently overseeing all law enforcement field operations for the department, Hunter had been the major in charge of the TPWD Internal Affairs Unit and Executive Protection Team until his promotion to lieutenant colonel in 2006. He joined the department as a game warden in 1984 and steadily moved up in rank.
Prior to beginning his state service, from 1974-1979 Hunter served as a patrol officer with the Temple Police Department and with the Irving Police Department from 1979-1980. After a short stint with the Lampasas County Sheriff’s Office, Hunter went to work as an investigator with the Bell County Sheriff’s Office until 1983.
While getting on-the-job experience as a peace officer, Hunter furthered his education in the classroom. In 1976, he got an associate degree in law enforcement from Temple Junior College. Three years later he went back to school, earning a bachelor of science in criminal justice from Texas A&M Central Texas. In 1981, he received a master’s degree in criminal justice.
As a city, county and state officer, Hunter has been involved in hundreds of criminal investigations ranging from homicides and narcotics cases to state and federal game law violations.
One of the first Texas game wardens to use a decoy deer to catch illegal night hunters, Hunter made more than 100 cases in Montgomery County on the first night of the operation and had a 100 per cent conviction rate. Later, he was the lead investigator in an 18-month case in which a Dallas businessman was indicted on three felony counts for claiming a trophy set of antlers taken from a buck in Kansas were from a Texas-harvested deer.
Along with his state law enforcement commission, Hunter also holds a commission as an agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunter had opportunity to use his dual commission during a complicated undercover operation ranging from Houston to Boston after which 18 persons were arrested for illegally killing bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, antelope and white-tailed deer in Alaska, Alabama, Colorado, Texas and Wyoming.
In 2005, Hunter led a team of 111 Texas game wardens sent to New Orleans to assist with search and rescue efforts following the devastating Hurricane Katrina. During the operation, the Texans were credited with more than 5,000 rescues.
Hunter and his wife Bernadette have a son, Craig Jr., who is a senior at Texas A&M and a member of the Corps of Cadets.