Col. Bob Craig
If you’ve followed Roanoke city politics for the last few years, you probably know of Col. Bob Craig, who scolded the city council for years before finally making a run for office in 2010.
Craig, 72, passed away early Sunday.
Craig probably was best known for his 2010 run for the council, in which he fell 427 votes short of third-place finisher Bill Bestpitch in a race with three seats up for grabs. You can read the Q&A we published with Craig, in which he expounds upon his fiscal philosophy a bit.
I’ll remember him more for his curmudgeonly, no-nonsense approach. Bob wouldn’t hesitate to criticize my stories if he disagreed or thought I let a council member off too easily. But at the same time, he could be warm and friendly.
One time he was speaking to the council on a fiscal matter before suddenly digressing and complaining about Assistant City Manager Brian Townsend wagging his finger in his face. Craig said if it happened again, that finger was “liable” to get broken.
Here’s a clip from a story in that 2010 race where I asked him about that incident:
“I don’t think at my age with my record I need to take that kind of disrespect from someone like him,” Craig said earlier this year.
Craig said he’s more than capable of working with others — otherwise he never would have risen to the rank of colonel. And if elected, he said he wouldn’t walk in and try to change council overnight, but would opt instead to listen and learn.
“My approach would of course be reasonable,” Craig said. “My approach has always been reasonable. What people forget is that after the third time, the fourth time, I get very unreasonable.”
I’ll always laugh when I remember one incident late in the campaign. One of Craig’s Republican running mates was Mike Powell, who was being interviewed on the local NAACP radio show:
Brenda Hale, president of the NAACP’s Roanoke branch, was interviewing Powell and fielded a phone call from someone who questioned whether Powell’s business had anywhere near the revenues of the city government.
When Powell said no, the caller questioned the relevance of his business experience to managing the “$247 million of budgeting that the city does.”
Powell suggested the caller might be Craig, referring to him as “Bob” during the exchange.
The voice and cadence of the caller resemble Craig, and one of Craig’s talking points during the campaign has been his experience with a military budget that outsizes Roanoke city government’s.
Powell admitted his business doesn’t pull in as much money as Roanoke, but then he questioned whether experience with a military budget is applicable either, leading to the following exchange:
Powell: “You can look higher up in the government in the military where they spend $500 million-plus a year, and that budget doesn’t even necessarily have to be looked at that hard because even if you were to mess up a budget like that, the government will just continue to pour money into it. Won’t it, Bob?”
Caller: “This is not Bob.”
Powell: “I’m sorry, you sounded just like him.”
Caller: “My name is not Bob, but thank you very much for your answer to my call.”
Craig said Wednesday that he was not the caller in question: “I did not hear the radio thing. I don’t know what the hell it was, but it wasn’t me. He’s my running mate, all right? We’re running on the same ticket. I want to see a Republican sweep. That was not me.”
Was it in fact Craig on the line? I listened to a tape of the show and it sure sounded like him. But he never admitted to it, and it’s possible there’s another Roanoke political observer out there who sounds a lot like him.
One thing for sure though: There won’t be another Col. Craig.
– Mason Adams