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Calmly, 'Mac' takes city's reins

City Manager Norton "Mac" Craig puts his focus on work and off controversy.

By LORRI HELFAND
Published July 15, 2007


New Largo city manager Norton "Mac" Craig addresses new employees at the city training center across from the police station. Craig, 70, is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Vietnam vet. He's been with the city since 2000.
photo
[Times photo: Zach Boyden-Holmes]
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LARGO - With a smile and a smooth southern drawl, Norton "Mac" Craig welcomed a room full of new employees.

"I'm kind of new, too, today," Craig told 19 workers at Largo's training center. "Today makes my second day as city manager."

Craig, 70, who has served as assistant city manager since 2004, actually jumped into the fray five months ago. Craig was appointed acting city manager after Steve Stanton was put on leave following the disclosure he planned to become a woman.

Stanton has since legally changed his name to Susan.

For weeks, news trucks were stationed in the city's parking lot. Workers fielded dozens of calls from upset residents and from media outlets. Stanton was eventually fired in late March.

Craig's focus has been on helping staffers concentrate on work and off the controversy, he said.

And he doesn't want to dwell on the issue.

"I like Steve. Steve was good to me. He gave me an opportunity to be part of the city. I hope for nothing but the best for Susan Stanton," said Craig, one of about 10 city employees who attended a going-away party for Stanton.

Craig, who joined the city as environmental services director in 2000, is known for his warm personality and calming demeanor. He said he knows employees will make mistakes, but expects them to learn from them.

Sporting a gray suit, purple shirt and print tie, Craig introduced himself to new employees.

"Everyone in town and most in the city call me Mac, so you all may as well, too," he said.

He told them his door was open, that he wanted workers to come to him if their supervisors didn't handle their concerns.

But Craig also showed his stern side.

"One of my rules is that I want to know the good news and the bad news and I want to know it first," Craig said.

He told workers to tell their bosses if there's a mishap, because he doesn't want to find out about it from a city commissioner. He also warned them he wouldn't tolerate harassment of any kind.

* * *

Craig grew up in Smackover, Ark., a town of about 2,000.

"I knew everybody and everybody knew me," said Craig.

His mom and dad still live in Smackover, which hasn't changed much, he said.

"You can still go to the drug store and get a cup of coffee for five cents," Craig said.

Craig's dad, also named Norton, used to be called Big Mac and Craig's nickname was Little Mac. Eventually, they dropped the "Little," said Craig, who now stands about 6 feet 1.

His father, now 95, was in the oil well servicing business. As a kid, Craig thought he might want to do that, too.

"It didn't take me long to realize that wasn't where I wanted to work," he said.

Years later, when he was about to be drafted for the Vietnam War, he decided to join the Army so he could have some control over his service and his future.

He was in the chemical corps and by all likelihood he should never have seen combat.

But he did.

He was assigned to an infantry unit and was injured in a mortar attack. He earned a Purple Heart, among other awards.

Craig would say little about the attack or his injuries.

"I don't think anybody needs to know where the holes are in me," he said.

Craig credits his 29-year military career with honing his leadership skills.

"Getting out of the service after Vietnam never crossed my mind," he said. "I was a captain when I got there and a major when I got out of Vietnam and I was already well into a career."

In 1983, Craig moved to Largo with his wife, Shirley, to work as a command chemical officer for Central Command in Tampa.

He retired in 1987 as a lieutenant colonel. A couple years later, he went to work for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Tampa office, working his way up to deputy district director.

Craig joined the city after a job in his specialty opened up in 2000.

He enjoys golf and bass fishing, but said he doesn't have much time for either.

Craig is also an amateur photographer. Last year, he and his wife took a two-week trip to Africa for a photographic safari with wildlife artist Larry K. Martin.

Craig collects art, including a print of a cardinal by Martin that adorns his office. He has also donated several pieces of art to the city.

While some may say he's in his golden years, Craig said he's not ready to slow down.

"There will be a time, I know, for the city to start looking for a new city manager," Craig said. "Right now, I have no interest in retiring."

Times news researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Lorri Helfand can be reached at 445-4155 or lorri@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts:

Norton 'Mac' Craig

Age: 70

2000: Joined the city as environmental services director.

2004: Hired as assistant city manager.

Prior job: Deputy district director for the state Department of Environmental Protection's Tampa office.

Background: Grew up in Smackover, Ark. Retired Army lieutenant colonel and command chemical officer, with 29 years of service.

Personal: Married. Has two West Highland White Terriers: Scarlet and Murphy.

What's next? City Attorney Alan Zimmet is negotiating a contract with Craig and plans to bring it before the commission in early August.

[Last modified July 14, 2007, 21:11:10]


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