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Five Questions for a Las Vegas Teamster Who Loves What He Does

by Jeanne Brei

Mike Robertson grew up in Houston with a Hollywood connection. His parents met in Hollywood, his uncle was Dale Robertson, the actor in the late Fifties TV show, Tales of Well Fargo, and another uncle, Port Robertson, was the athletic director and head coach of the University of Oklahoma wrestling team which won at the 1960 Olymics in Rome leading his uncle into being inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame. His parents divorced when he was five and his mom moved the family to Las Vegas in 1967, managing Louis Prima’s Fairway to the Stars golf course and running Howard Hughes’ mining operations. He’d spend summers at the family farm in Oklahoma learning how to ride, shoot, fish, hunt and wrestle with his cousins. At five, he started lessons in taekwondo and kenpo and various mixed marital arts, and was undefeated in Golden Gloves boxing as a teenager. With all those survival skills, he took his GED at 16 and went to join his friends in special ops/private contractors work in Vietnam, later joining the Air Force. As he explains, “Due to my knowledge of the arts and weapons I was asked to join covert operations in Vietnam through private contractors. I received an honorable discharge in 1975 with Strategic Air Command U.S.A.F. I received a bachelors degree from the University of Texas after my return. I moved back to Las Vegas and worked in law enforcement and had friends in the conventions/631 Teamsters–and began the greatest show on earth! The convention industry.”

Over the years, he’s worked as a traveling foreman for GES, Las Vegas city manager for Eyecatchers, a project manager (but he just couldn’t fire people), and a chief steward for Teamsters 631 (solving problems, grievances and contract issues). Currently he spends a lot of time training the newbies—teaching them that “what you put into it, is what you get out of it.” On the show floor, he’s known for big heart and he’s been with his honey, Janet Sue, for nearly 20 years. He has two grown children, three grown stepkids and eight grandchildren.

  1. ECN: What do you like best about your job?

MR: I love the versatility of the convention industry, where it’s never boring, never ending and being around all the wonderful people in the industry, who’ve become my family. With the hours we work, I’ve spent more time with all the people in our industry than I’ve spent at home.

  1. ECN: Did you have a mentor? If so, could you tell us a little about him/her and how they assisted you? Are you a mentor yourself now?

MR: There are many that have helped mentor me through my 37 years. Billy Geller, whom I consider a legend. He is a brother in the industry and a Vietnam Veteran. Billy was general foreman at GES and he taught me all the ropes on how to run a tradeshow for the general contractor. Billy was a person who stood up for everybody and taught everybody how important it is to be nice and enjoy what you do. He’d say, “we’re here to work but let’s enjoy it—it’s all about being nice.”

  1. ECN: Do you have something you wish you could tell exhibit managers to make your job easier?

JG: All of those exhibit managers are friends of mine. I am very grateful to the 631 Teamsters for this opportunity. The management and Teamsters that I work with are making Las Vegas the very best!

  1. ECN: Do you have a favorite tradeshow? Or a favorite tradeshow city? Or a favorite tradeshow memory to share?

MR: I’d have to say SEMA because for years I drove a top-fuel chopper (a stretched-out, custom-built motorcycle) and I used to build hotrods. Billy Geller retired in 2000 and he races cars at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway—392 Challenger street car racing.

  1.   ECN: Do you have any advice for someone just entering the industry?

JW: The advice I have for new hires in the industry is to keep a good work ethic, attendance record and be the best you can be each day. This industry has provided my family new homes, vacations and a lifestyle that is not affordable to most. I thank God every day for this and for all the wonderful people I have met and work with on a daily basis.

This story originally appeared in the March/April issue of Exhibit City News, p. 46. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_flipbook_marchapril2019?e=16962537/67925242

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