OLUSTEE (FBW)—Evangelist James Croft stands only 3-feet, 10-inches tall, but he has big plans for the Baker County Commission, returning to office seeking to fix the county’s budget problems after a more than two-decade hiatus.
Croft, a vocational evangelist widely known in north Florida and south Georgia for his unique ministry, was elected during the August primary, edging out the Republican incumbent with 53 percent of the vote. With no general election opposition, Croft was officially elected in November, taking the oath of office in a Nov. 20 ceremony.
After regularly attending the County Commission meetings in the last two years and concerned about deficit spending, Croft said citizens began to urge him to seek reelection to the body that he first served 1984-1988 before losing a reelection bid. In 1992, he failed in an attempt to return to office.
Although initially resisting the idea of returning to politics, Croft, 54, prayed about the matter and in April decided to seek election, for which he quickly qualified. In May, however, he almost died during gall bladder surgery.
“A very close friend and advisor said no one would blame me for pulling out of the race, but I knew the Lord had led me into it and we should not stop,” Croft told Florida Baptist Witness Nov. 30.
“This entire campaign and election has been miraculous in my heart,” he said, citing the life-threating surgery and uphill battle against a well-funded opponent that outspent his campaign “tremendously.”
“Many people said it would take a miracle for me to win. It was almost like David and Goliath,” he said, noting in the end he won by 323 votes, winning every precinct in the county with one exception.
“To God be the glory, honor and praise,” he said. “This had to be a God-thing!”
Campaigning as James “The Giant” Croft—his nickname as a radio DJ in the 1970’s, the diminutive life-long Baker County resident was concerned about “fighting big government,” arguing the commission should look at the budget “line-by-line” and stop tapping its reserves to balance its finances.
“I will not support raising taxes until I am comfortable everything possible has been done to control spending, and even then, a prioritization of spending must be implemented,” he said.
Croft also believes Baker County is ideally situated in proximity to Jacksonville International Airport, Jacksonville Port Authority, and interstate highways to attract “clean industry and business.”
Croft is confident that responsibilities of public office will not interfere with his ministry work, James Croft Evangelistic Association.
“I believe if the Lord lays it on the heart of a pastor [and] church for me to preach then the dates can be worked out,” he said.
He said the number of revival services he has led has decreased in recent years, although he’s unsure if that’s because as a general trend of churches are not using vocational evangelists as much or whether God wanted him to pursue public office.
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