LARGO — Norton “Mac” Craig, the Purple Heart-decorated Army veteran known for keeping cool under pressure during a nine-year stint as Largo city manager, has died.
Craig joined Largo city administration in 2000 as environmental services officer and retired from government work in 2016. He died Aug. 2 at age 84, less than a week after the July 29 death of his wife of 47 years, Shirley.
A joint memorial service for the Craigs will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, at Serenity Funeral Home in Largo.
“Mac and Shirley both will be missed,” Largo Mayor Woody Brown said. “They were very instrumental in a lot of great things that happened in the city of Largo.
“They loved our city and contributed to many things, such as the library and the recreational department, and they were very generous with their time and money,” Brown said. “But they were not just great philanthropists, they were also great people. They made their mark here, and they will be missed.”
Craig’s tenure as city manager began in 2007 under trying circumstances. The previous manager, Susan Stanton, had been fired in a controversial move that sowed seeds of division among City Hall ranks.
Enter Mac Craig, already known for a cool administrative demeanor that soon worked wonders in restoring good orderly direction among the troops running city government in Largo.
Not that the work ahead for the new city manager would prove easy — anything but.
The Great Recession soon forced scores of staff job cuts, creating countless administrative challenges. But Craig calmly made the tough decisions, colleagues recall, and set to work on bolstering the local economy by attracting new businesses and residents, while also setting the stage for future redevelopment downtown and in the medical arts corridor.
Craig minimized the pain of the job cuts — which hit every department in city government — by allowing some early retirements, meaning only a small number of employees ultimately received pink slips.
High points of his years managing Largo included the construction of Highland Recreation Complex and Largo Community Center.
“He was a very caring individual who brought a lot of stability to the city organization,” said Henry Schubert, Largo’s current city manager and an assistant city manager during Craig’s tenure.
“I’d never worked with someone who cared so much about people at all levels in the organization and in the public — that was a priority for him,” Schubert recalled. “If he made a decision, he was always aware of what the impact would be on people. You don’t always see that in executives, but it was something that guided him in his life and decision-making.”
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A Tampa native, Shirley (Greeson) Craig was a notable civic booster for Largo, and the couple continued their support of local projects after Craig retired from his city post. “She was a very supportive partner to Mac,” Schubert said.
In 2005, when Craig was assistant city manager in Largo, he and Shirley donated valuable artworks to the new city library, including well-known artist Keith Martin Johns’ “Florida’s Forgotten Coast” and “Pink Passion,” along with “God Shed His Grace on Thee” and “America the Beautiful,” works by Larry K. Martin.
Craig said afterwards that he hadn’t seen any art planned for the city’s handsome new library and that the couple wanted to provide some.
After Craig retired from a 29-year military career — ended at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa — the Arkansas native served for nine years as assistant director of the Tampa office of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. He then moved into his first position in Largo, and after five years in the city’s environmental operations became Largo’s assistant city manager.
In Craig’s retirement year, the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce made it clear that his tour of duty in city government was well-appreciated: He was honored as the 2016 Citizen of the Year at the Chamber’s 64th annual meeting.
A Vietnam veteran injured in a mortar attack for which he was awarded the Purple Heart, Craig’s other military honors included his receiving the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star and other awards.
The Craigs married in 1974, just before a three-year deployment to Thailand. Craig retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel-chemical command officer.
The Craigs are survived by eight children from previous marriages and 14 grandchildren. Mac Craig’s son, Michael, died in 2014.