Hello and thank you for visiting my page for Reason to Dance, Reason for Hope! My name is John Sebastian Smelko, but I’ve always gone by my middle name, Sebastian. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, in the Weather Capital of the World, the borough of Punxsutawney. It’s the unequivocal Home of the Groundhog—the Seer of Seers—the Prognosticator of Prognosticators, Punxsutawney Phil. I am the middle child of Dr. John Regis (“Jack”) Smelko (d. 2015) and Loretta Anderlonis Smelko. I played sports my entire life and they were a very important part of my life. I attended and played football at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am a student of policy, history and decision science.
After college I moved east and worked primarily in Somerville, New Jersey, and New York City for Edison Media Research where I was the political director for 9 states during the Kerry/President George W. Bush General Election for the National Election Pool, which acquires all the data for election day reporting through the use of Exit Pools. Thereafter, I moved to Valparaiso, Indiana—the Vale of Paradise in northwestern Indiana for law school. I met my wife Heather James (Smelko) on the third day of law school; we were married in 2010 in Rome, Italy.
We both studied abroad at Cambridge University during law school and worked to graduate early. Through a friend who introduced me to a staff member on Governor Mitch Daniels’ team, I was fortunate enough to be hired onto the staff where I remained from 2007 until the Governor’s last day in office in 2013 as both legal counsel to the Office of the Governor, but also a policy director for the Governor. I worked with a great team, and it taught me a great deal.
Thereafter, I became the general counsel to the Ports of Indiana where I gained invaluable experience, and subsequently entered private practice. These involvements provided me an excellent foundation and I currently focus on infrastructure investment, economic development structures and incentives, as well as governmental affairs. At Ice Miller LLP, where my wife also practices, I act as the co-director of our Public Infrastructure Public-Private Partnership industry group and developed experience analyzing and drafting policy initiatives and ushering legislation through the Indiana General Assembly. I work with a variety of governmental entities—from state related entities to local governmental ones focusing on policy development and strategic approaches. Currently I am spending a lot of time working on the $2+ billion-dollar investment into the commuter rail line in northwest Indiana and the transit-oriented development which will occur within those communities. It is the largest commuter rail expansion in Indiana’s history and I drafted and ushered the first Indiana legislation to encourage transit-oriented development through the statehouse.
Heather and I are the proud parents of two incredible daughters, Vivienne (9) and Giavanna (6) who attend the Oaks Academy. We live in the Herron Morton neighborhood with our daughters, my mother, and our giant Newfoundland, Dr. Leo Marvin (“Marv”). With our girls we love travelling, experiencing new places and food together, and are both proud to be Hoosiers by Choice.