Need a necktie?

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 28, 2005

For sale: nice neckties, slightly used, but in excellent condition. Call Don Craft for details.

Don Craft can’t remember the last time he left home in the morning without a necktie. As a businessman representing the John Deere Company, Craft could always be found in a tie. Ditto for the nearly 15 years he spent as Manager of Hertford County.

On Wednesday morning of this week, Craft sat down in O’Conner’s Restaurant here in Ahoskie with yours truly and R-C News-Herald staff writer Thadd White. Craft arrived without his trademark necktie, but that was to be expected.

Mr. Craft retired on Monday. Retirees are not required to wear neckties.

&uot;It still feels funny not wearing one,&uot; Craft told this reporter. &uot;I had gotten so use to wearing one over all these years. If you need to borrow one, I’ve got a closet full of them.&uot;

No thanks, Mr. Craft, I’m not a necktie person.

However, I am a person that doesn’t mind passing along praise when it is justifiable. It is in Don Craft’s case.

During my short tenure of covering the Hertford County Board of Commissioners (a job now filled by Thadd), I found Craft a very pleasant person to work with. It also helped that he, like this local product, was a down-to-Earth type of man. It helped tremendously that he, like me, is a fan of NC State athletics.

That aside, Craft was the ultimate professional. His years of experience in the retail world and his pleasant demeanor around those under his authority made Craft a natural when it came to running the day-by-day operations of small county government.

I feel confident there are those that despise the ground Craft walks upon. That’s par for the course when you’re the boss. He’s stepped on more than a few toes, but instead of letting that affect his next move, he kept on walking towards a much bigger picture – what would be good for the majority of Hertford County citizens and not just a select few.

The job he performed as Manager must have pleased his bosses – the County Commissioners. It’s a safe guess that most County Managers here in our state may expect a short career, perhaps in the 5-to-10 year range. For Craft, it’s been 15 years since he was appointed to the job. Prior to that, he served one term as a Hertford County Commissioner, twice elected as Chairman during that four-year period. He even served as Interim County Manager while holding down the Commissioners’ Chairman seat.

During his &uot;watch&uot; as the county’s top administrator, Craft led Hertford through a few rough spots. There was a lawsuit concerning the old jail, a controversy with a former Sheriff and two major hurricanes, including one (Floyd) that had local residents wishing they had the skills of Noah.

Through it all, Craft was able to do what a great manager does best – orchestrate correct action thanks to having in place a dependable and loyal team of department heads. Any great manager will be the first to tell you that having the right people in the right places is the key to success.

Even in his 70’s, Craft still felt he could continue. However, declining health forced his hand.

His replacement faces some fairly large decisions, namely replacing a courthouse and finding room for expanding DSS and Public Health services.

Perhaps the new manager could solicit a few ideas from his predecessor, not to mention an assortment of slightly used neckties.