The commissioner of Nassau County’s Office of Emergency Management died after suffering a heart attack Wednesday, officials said.
Craig Craft, 53, was “a real hero” who guided Nassau through superstorm Sandy in 2012 and “countless other emergencies,” County Executive Edward Mangano said in a statement.
Craft had the heart attack at his Seaford home and was taken to Nassau University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, officials said.
He became commissioner in September 2011, succeeding James Callahan III. Craft had been Callahan’s top deputy since 2010 and previously served as a regional supervisor for the Town of Hempstead Parks Department and on the town’s emergency management team.
He was also a longtime member of the Wantagh Fire Department, previously serving as a chief and captain.
At the time of his death he was vice chairman of the department’s Board of Fire Commissioners.
“He devoted his life’s work to saving lives and ensuring the safety of his fellow citizens through his leadership . . .,” Mangano said.
Rob Walker, Nassau County’s chief deputy county executive, called Craft’s death “absolutely devastating.” Walker said he and Craft worked together to prepare for the devastation of Sandy in October 2012 “and that’s something you’ll never forget.”
“When you get a phone call at night from him, he was just the most jovial person,” Walker said. “No one ever talked negatively about him.”
Legis. Steven Rhoads (R-North Bellmore) has known Craft for 25 years and called him a “champion” for Nassau residents.
“There is no one more dedicated and passionate about public safety or the people of Nassau County than Craig,” Rhoads said.
Jim Kane, the emergency management office’s deputy commissioner, said he was shocked to hear of Craft’s death, especially since the two had been hanging out Tuesday night.
“We were actually at my office and we were discussing things about the county and work coming up,” Kane said. “It was a lot of fun and he was upbeat.”
Craig was not married and did not have children. The county is working with the family to determine funeral arrangements.
“This is a huge loss to us and to the county,” Kane said. “Craig was the kind of guy, if you needed the last dollar in his pocket, he’d get you $1.25.”