There’s a saying at the Port of Olympia that if you were to cut some of the employees open they wouldn’t just bleed red, they would bleed red and blue, Port of Olympia colors. That statement couldn’t be truer when talking about Mike Crawford.
As the Port of Olympia’s longest standing employee, Mike looks toward retirement this coming May 2020. As he reflects on his time at the Port of Olympia, he wouldn’t change a thing.
For over 40 years, Mike Crawford has driven through the Port of Olympia marine terminal gates to do a job he loves on the working waterfront. Today, Mike is the Marine Terminal Foreman and Facility Security Officer. He has seen the Port grow and change due to market, fiscal, national, international, and even pandemic conditions.
While some may find Mike to be just another guy who works on the waterfront, those who know him would tell you he isn’t just another person working on the waterfront, he is the working waterfront. He lives and breathes the working waterfront and he is who most people think of when the Port of Olympia’s marine terminal is mentioned.
Mike started his career at the Port of Olympia in 1978 as a facilities maintenance technician on the Marine Terminal. Mike soon became a valuable asset to the Port of Olympia and moved his way up through the ranks to become the Marine Terminal Foreman in 1999.
A lot can change in 40 years, and Mike has witnessed the Port undergo many changes. He has worked under 16 Port Commissioners, one general manager, six executive directors, one deputy executive director, and eight marine terminal department managers/directors. He has watched the landscape of the Port change with reductions in the footprint of the marine terminal, removal of warehouses, and increased security requirements. The public could once drive through the middle of the log yard (Washington Street) to get to Port Café or the many different restaurants that previously occupied the space that Anthony's Hearthfire Grill now resides, or park alongside the ship loading operations to enjoy the view while eating their lunch. Today, there are restrictions and security in place for both the security and safety of those working within the terminal as well as the public. He has also witnessed modernizations such as having a terminal with a Whirley Crane, to two container cranes, to the current mobile harbor crane. Mike has also helped with operations for more than 25 different types of cargo at the Port of Olympia marine terminal.
In 2001, after 9/11 took place, the U.S. Coast Guard evaluated the most vulnerable assets in the United States and marine terminals ranked near the top of the list. At that time the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was formed and new security requirements were placed upon working waterfronts. Fencing was to be placed, security guards were mandated to be at the entry points and each marine terminal needed to designate a Facility Security Officer. Who better to take on this role than the person who had dedicated his working career to assuring the marine terminal ran a safe and smooth operation?
Not only did Mike take the lead on implementing the required changes, but he also built relationships with various military branches. Mike served as the Port representative on the Area Maritime Security Committee (AMSC) for a number of years, and following former Marine Terminal Director, Jim Amador’s term became the Honorary Commander for Joint Base Lewis McChord’s 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron[K1] from 2016 – 2018. Mike also held relationships with Capital Lakefair, working with the U.S. Navy and the Canadian Navy to welcome the USS Olympia submarine and the Royal Canadian Navy Frigates to the Port of Olympia marine terminal. He has even ridden his way into the marine terminal upon the USS Olympia submarine. Mike has also built and maintained strong relationships with our local first responders such as Olympia Police Department, Washington State Patrol, Thurston County Sheriff, Olympia Fire Department, as well as others.
Mike’s relationship building and years of service to helping aid our local partners was recently recognized by the Olympia Police Department who awarded Mike with the highest honor, their coin. This honor is very difficult to receive and is rarely given outside of the police department.
Ask anyone what Mike means to the Port of Olympia and the community and they will tell you that he is the heartbeat of the Port. Many staff look to Mike as a leader for the entire organization. He approaches tasks with reason and no problem is too large for him to solve. He creates innovative ways for the Port to accomplish tasks while saving money.
However, what you will hear from most everyone is that Mike has a sense of humor that people are naturally drawn to. He loves to laugh and will tell you that is what’s most important about life.
Port Commissioner Bill McGregor also had the pleasure of being Mike's boss for nearly a decade, beginning in the late 1980s. "Mike has been one of the most loyal, dedicated employees that I have ever run across in my 40 plus years in this industry. He could be counted on to take on almost any – and I do mean ANY – task that was asked of him. As he grew in years, his responsibilities and reliability grew with him. He had a 'Port-first' and 'I can do it' attitude that was beyond belief. His reputation for being level headed, a square shooter, hard worker, and ready to speak his mind in a respectful manner are all part of the make-up of the LEGEND known as MIKE CRAWFORD."
When asked what has kept Mike working for the same organization for over 40 years, he said; “The People. It’s that simple. They are my family and they are what have made my time at the Port enjoyable.” When asked what he will miss most about the Port when he retires, his answer is the same, “The People.”
What will a Port of Olympia without Mike Crawford look like? It may take some time to adjust, but the mark he has made on the almost century-old organization won’t be forgotten anytime soon. He has passed his knowledge, innovation and passion for the organization to those coming up behind him. After he has retired and moved on, look close because you’ll still find him here in many ways.