One of Us

Mike Roberts


Can you please briefly tell us about your background?

I grew up near Kalamazoo, Michigan, and attended Michigan State University. My junior-year internship was at the U.S. Courthouse in D.C. I was fascinated with Washington and returned to D.C. after graduation. I worked briefly for a U.S. senator and landed a Justice Department job where I met my wife Barb. After graduating from night law school, I practiced transportation law in D.C. for several years. Our children were born in 1988 and 1990, and in 1991, I joined Crowley Maritime as counsel for the container shipping division. I’ve been with Crowley in one format or another ever since.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

My role has narrowed recently. For 10 years, I served as the company’s general counsel. Today, I focus more exclusively on government relations and also lead a key industry coalition, the American Maritime Partnership (AMP). What I enjoy most is working with extremely talented teams to help solve significant and often difficult challenges. Crowley does very interesting work in many different areas. (Check out the website — it’s a lot!). Much of that work involves complex policy issues, which puts the legal and government relations team right in the middle of it. Crowley’s can-do, public-service mindset — grounded in safety and integrity — means there’s no shortage of interesting projects to work on. It also makes helping the Crowley team succeed a real privilege.     

What are some of the challenges that your industry/company is facing?

Certainly keeping ahead on technology and talent acquisition are key challenges almost any growing company faces. I’ll respond, however, in the context of the American maritime industry with my Crowley hat on (Crowley hires more American mariners and has invested more in American ships than any other company) and as president of AMP. American maritime needs to move out smartly on two long-term challenges. One is the need to adapt and lead as the world transitions toward sustainable energy resources and away from fossil fuels. The second is the need to help drive perhaps radical policy changes to respond specifically to China’s maritime ambitions. Studies released this year show that the Chinese government invests about $15 billion / year in Chinese commercial shipping and shipbuilding companies, maybe 30 times more than what the U.S. government invests in American shipping and shipbuilding. This gross imbalance raises serious national security concerns that need to be addressed.

What are your primary roles/responsibilities?

My job is to build relationships with U.S. senators and congressional representatives and senior officials in the administration so that they understand the issues that matter to Crowley (with 6,000+ direct jobs) and the American maritime industry (which produces 650,000 jobs nationwide). Our approach is to be educators vs, the traditional view of lobbyists. We are fiercely non-partisan, trusting that government leaders will connect with and care about our company and industry regardless of political affiliation. They usually do. [We should also be reminded occasionally that policy differences do get resolved almost every day on Capitol Hill, usually at the staff level, which almost never makes the news.] I’ve also enjoyed my service as president of AMP. I’ve been on the AMP Board since its founding 25 years ago. It is now one of the largest coalitions of maritime interests ever assembled. It is focused on supporting the American domestic maritime industry and the shipping law (the Jones Act) that governs our domestic maritime trades.

What do you enjoy most about living in the Ponte Vedra area?

My wife Barb and I are splitting time between D.C. and PVB. We enjoy being in the city and all that it has to offer. But we love coming home to PVB. The outdoor lifestyle, fitness opportunities, beach … I feel so much healthier after a week in PVB vs. a week in D.C. We’ve developed some great friendships through work, the church, the club and our wine club. We’ve also discovered more local entertainment options in recent years, enjoying the different concert venues, theaters and some really interesting restaurants. Our hope is they all come back stronger than ever in ’21! 

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy playing golf with friends, playing a little guitar, and DIY projects around the house – building a wine cellar, reorganizing the garage (no painting or plumbing!) I also enjoy supporting my wife’s work in a few areas — producing musical theater at Christ Episcopal Church, work on the PV Community Association (including its first-ever parade Dec. 6), and in other volunteer activities.