Meet Mark

As an almost 30 year resident of Orange County, as an attorney in private practice, and as an elected official, I have been a leader on and across the state on criminal justice reform issues, improving access to the courts, social justice, and ballot access.  For almost two decades, I have worked as a criminal defense attorney and non-profit leader.  I come to this race with a commitment to improve the functioning of the Clerk’s office, make it a true partner with other court officials, and to ensure that all who seek its services are made to feel welcome. I will be focused on providing the Clerk’s office services in a manner driven by the goal of creating effective partnerships and modern processes that ease the anxiety that often accompanies one’s engagement with the courts. 

Previously, I served the Town of Chapel Hill, first as a Councilmember from 2001-2009, and as Mayor from 2009-2015.

I was blessed to have grown up the son of USAF Chief Master Sergeant and a registered nurse.  I joined the Kleinschmidt family in Bellville, Illinois, and lived in Hawaii and New Mexico before moving to North Carolina as a child.  In 1992, I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Education and spent five years in the classroom teaching Social Studies.  Since graduating from the UNC-CH School of Law in 2000, I have lobbied for criminal justice reform and civil rights and represented clients in cases involving life and death all across the state.  I led the non-profit, the Fair Trial Initiative from 2006 to 2012 where I trained young lawyers to provide high-quality capital defense representation.  Formerly a partner at Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, I now operate a solo law practice in Chapel Hill.  

From 2001-2003 I served on the board of Equality NC and was a member of the board of the Int’l Network of Gay & Lesbian Officials. From 2003-2009, I was on the board of the NC ACLU serving as its President in 2008-2009.  I continue to serve as a steering committee member of the Mayors Innovation Project and am very proud to have been the attorney-coach of the award-winning Chapel Hill High School Mock Team for many years.

I am an active member of the United Church of Chapel Hill and live in Chapel Hill with my partner, Matt DeBellis, and our dog Ellie.