FAMOUS 5: ROBERT ORDWAY

Originally Posted at  Famous DC on July 11, 2019

Most people come to The Hill by way of an internship during or just after college and work their way up in time. After working in both the public and private sector for a decade, Robert is a recent transplant to DC and landed in the US Senate at the beginning of 2019. While most professionals in this space strive to be specialists, Robert’s many life experiences led him to become a generalist. In addition to working on The Hill, he writes about professional development and uses his fashion knowledge to dress professionals for success.

Tell us about your transition to DC and what you’ve learned so far.

Well, I moved here in January 2017 at the tender age of 31 and must have been one of the oldest interns in the history of The Heritage Foundation. I’ve really enjoyed the energy of the city but as a forever ‘early to bed early to rise’ person, I still haven’t quite adapted to this Eastern time zone, much less the late-night lifestyle. The diversity of folks from across the country as well as around the world is probably the best part, not to mention there are unlimited things to see and do here. Can’t say I enjoy paying my rent though…

How is being a generalist an asset on The Hill?

My resume is an unusual one. I was appointed to sit on a Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) for a city, a commercial assessor for a county and a securities regulator for the State of Indiana so I’ve seen government at every level. In addition, I’ve worked for sole proprietors, small and large LLCs, multi-national corporations and even owned my own business. My approach is more like a Renaissance man, try to be as generally good at as many things as possible and understand how various disciplines are interwoven. It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re always in the weeds. My overarching approach is to engage in what I believe are the five pillars of a strong community: faith, education, business/labor, non-profit and government. 

What is Capitol Hill Clothiers?

After owning a clothing store in Indiana, CHC was a hobby I started as a way to build a personal brand in DC and help other interns that were ‘balling on a budget’. While I don’t have much time for it other than the weekends, it has allowed me to stay close to the clothing industry while building meaningful relationships around the city. There are some things that unite people and putting a smile on someone’s face when I help them dress for their first interview, a big presentation or even a wedding is surreal. I find a lot of fulfillment in giving others the confidence to be successful in their endeavors, whatever they may be.

Overall, where do you see the clothing industry going?

Some believe that old retail is dying and being replaced by e-commerce, such was the same thought just before the dot com bubble. I think the future is much more of a hybrid. Humans are hyper-social creatures and to sell luxury items, they want to “see, smell and taste” things. Clothing is also the paradox where people’s actions rarely represent their proposed values. As the nation moves more caused and toward athleisure and tech fabrics, there is also a sustainability movement regarding fair trade, workers’ rights as well as air and water environmental protections. Only time will tell before we know where the industry is going as a whole.

Any books you are reading or recommend?

With the demands of the day job I don’t have as much time to pleasure read, however, there are some books I never get tired of and wish more folks in the policy work would consider and reform their approach. Many thinkers and academics are still looking at issues from an industrial revolution era which is ‘scale’ but they haven’t considered complexity which is really the forefront of problem solving in the 21st century. It’s why we won World Wars 1 and 2 but lost in Vietnam. Complexity > Scale

A New Kind of Science by Steven Wolfram tackles the randomness in physical systems and the limitation of mathematics. The Incerto series by Nassim Taleb is the greatest treatise on uncertainty, chance, volatility, risk, and decision-making. Lastly, Dynamics of Complex Systems and Making Things Work by Yaneer Bar-Yam have helped him solve the ebola crisis in Liberia and track the drivers of ethnic violence in various countries. His work is very important if we want to solve complex issues like housing and healthcare in America.

How Hoosiers want to improve D.C.’s Indiana Plaza, home of capital’s ‘ugliest’ statue

Posted by Indy Star on Feb 26, 2018

WASHINGTON – A host of Hoosiers — led by Vice President Pence — have come to the nation’s capital in the past year to make their mark in the corridors of power.

And now Hoosiers are hoping to take advantage of that influx to improve an actual corridor, home to what’s been dubbed D.C.’s “ugliest statue.”

The Indiana Society of Washington, a social and networking group for expatriate Hoosiers, is taking on a half-acre section of land on Pennsylvania Avenue, midway between the White House and the Capitol, in hopes of making it more worthy of the name it was given nearly three decades ago: Indiana Plaza

“It bears our name, and we want to be proud of it,” said Jan Powell, a longtime Indiana Society board member.

On Monday, the group is raising the first round of money for the improvement project in a tribute dinner to Pence and his wife, both backers of the society.

It’s one of the ways the group is taking advantage of the higher profile that comes with being the home state of the vice president.

“It does make a difference for sure,” said treasurer Dave Zook, who was also involved in the society when Dan Quayle was vice president.

More than 1,100 Hoosiers are part of the organization, a significant bump from a few years ago.Get the Hoosier Politics newsletter in your inbox.

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Members include those who have been in Washington for a while, as well as newcomers like Robert Ordway.

“The organization has been great on how to really plug people in,” said Ordway, who moved to Washington for the new opportunities he saw with the change of administration. “If you want to work on the Hill, or in the administration, or in lobbying, it’s about having friends here.”

Dozens of Hoosiers — or those who have worked in Indiana politics, businesses or for elected officials — are now working throughout the Trump administration.

Some in top jobs — including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma — are expected to attend Monday’s tribute to the Pences at the National Museum of Women and the Arts.

“There’s a real awareness of the extent to which the vice president has been bringing folks to Washington to serve in the administration,” Zook said. “And that tends to add to the profile and awareness of Indiana.”

When Ordway, who works for the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, tells people he’s from Indiana, they immediately mention Pence.

The other common response he gets is: “Oh. You’re from the Midwest. You’re really nice.”

“There’s an element of pride of being from Indiana,” Ordway said. “We’re just more amicable, friendly. We can be partisan, but it’s just different than the East Coast. I think people really relish being around those cultural values.”

The Indiana Society, one of the oldest state societies in Washington, gives Hoosiers a chance to appreciate those values at the inaugural ball it holds every four years, at happy hours featuring suds from Indiana’s craft breweries, and at events celebrating the Indy 500 and the anniversary of Indiana become a state.

Indiana Avenue is one of the streets that borders Indiana Plaza in Washington, D.C.

Indiana Avenue is one of the streets that borders Indiana Plaza in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY)

The group also organized the ceremony — with Vice President Quayle cutting the ceremonial gold ribbon — when Indiana Plaza was dedicated in 1990.

The plaza was created during the revitalization of a decaying Pennsylvania Avenue, the thoroughfare that runs from the White House to the Capitol and is known as “America’s Main Street.”

The triangular open space was called “Indiana Plaza” because it’s located between Indiana Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue.

While every state in the nation has a street in Washington named after it, they don’t all have a plaza.

“We have some sense of responsibility,” said Indiana Society president Stefan Bailey, an Indianapolis native. “It’s natural for us to be committed to its upkeep.”

The plaza may be best known for its monument to the temperance movement, a structure the Washington Post has said is “widely celebrated as Washington’s ugliest statue.” The Washington City Paper called it an “excellent Washington conversation piece too quaint to dispose of.”

The Temperance Fountain, located in Washington, D.C.'s Indiana Plaza, has been called the city's ugliest monument.

The Temperance Fountain, located in Washington, D.C.’s Indiana Plaza, has been called the city’s ugliest monument. (Photo: Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY)

The miniature Greek temple is one of 16 fountains donated to cities across the country in the 19th century by a wealthy California dentist who thought people would switch from beer to water if given a clean source.

(The Architect of the Capitol notes that while the fountain didn’t do much to decrease alcohol consumption in Washington, it did have the unintended impact of spurring the creation of fine arts commissions around the country to weed out “similar unwanted `gifts.’”)

Asked if the Indiana Society has any plans for the monument, Bailey judiciously responded: “That’s a decision for others.”

The site’s other main feature is 25-foot tall Civil War monument dedicated to the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization for Union veterans.

The Indiana Society is working with the National Park Service, which oversees the property, along with the city’s business improvement group on ways to make the area more inviting.

Indiana Plaza, a half-acre section of land halfway between the White House and the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Indiana Plaza, a half-acre section of land halfway between the White House and the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY)

“it’s not a place where people linger, sit down, have a cup of coffee,” Powell said. “It’s kind of a walk-through place.”

Initial plans include some cosmetic changes, such as tables and chairs, to spruce up the space and make it more vibrant.  While those changes could be made in time for the spring influx of tourists to Washington, the group is also exploring bigger ways to improve the plaza’s physical condition, as well as ways to tell Indiana’s story.

While visiting Hoosiers shouldn’t expect to see a racecar or basketball hoop on the plaza, the group hopes it will become a destination spot for Indiana tourists. It could also be as much of a point of pride as are the many national landmarks, museums, private and public buildings built with Indiana limestone that are throughout the nation’s capital, including around Indiana Plaza.

“I think we’re finally now in a position to make a long-term contribution to the plaza,” Bailey said, “and by extension, to D.C.”

Ordway earns Heritage Foundation fellowship

Reposted from NWI Times on Jan 14, 2017

VALPARAISO — The owner of a men’s clothing store has closed up shop and is heading to Washington hoping to make his mark on the world.

Robert Ordway, who owned Rusted Oak Gentlemen’s Boutique, was selected by the Washington Scholars Program for a fellowship at The Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington.

Ordway said he will be doing research and writing for The Daily Signal. He hopes to study energy policy.

“I think it’s time to take my skill sets to the next level,” he said.

Ordway has sold his home in Valparaiso, is moving to Washington and hopes to land a job in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

“I think the landscape of Washington will be changing in the next couple of months,” Ordway said.PauseCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time0:00Stream TypeLIVELoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00Fullscreen00:00Mute

Ordway served as an intern for Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas and state Rep. Ed Soliday. During those experiences he “fell in love with policy.”

“I don’t care for politics too much, but I do care about policy and solving problems,” he said.

Ordway previously worked for the Porter County assessor’s office and served on the Valparaiso Board of Zoning Appeals and with the Indiana secretary of state’s office.

He also held positions on the Indiana Senate Majority Campaign Committee, the House Republican Campaign Committee and the Indiana House Republican Caucus.

He said he is a member of the National Rifle Association, the NAACP, Young Leaders United and the Urban League Young Professionals of NWI.

He is a Lake Station native and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Valparaiso University.

Zuni’s House of Pizza, Valpo’s Rusted Oak closing

Reposted from NWI Times on Dec 15, 2016

Zuni’s House of Pizza in Highland and Rusted Oak Gentlemen’s Boutique in downtown Valparaiso are both closing.

Zuni’s opened a family-style pizzeria with a full bar and a private party room at 2907 W. 45th St. in Highland in 2013. Many restaurants and nightclubs have failed at that snakebitten location, including Sabor Restaurant & Tequila Bar and HiFi Roadhouse.

“I regret to inform you that this 18th will be our last day,” the pizzeria announced on its Facebook page, encouraging regulars to come in one last time by Sunday to say goodbye.

A small local chain, Zuni’s also once had locations in Crown Point and Cedar Lake that are now closed. The Zuni’s at 202 Joliet St. No. 105A in Dyer is under different ownership and will remain open, an employee said.

Rusted Oak opened on the Valparaiso courthouse square in November 2015, immediately making a splash with its stylish suits and men’s wear. It carries an array of bespoke and high-end items like whiskey barrels from Journeyman Distillery, handmade lip balm and its own private label beard oil.

During the summer, it had received initial approval from the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to get a fraternal club liquor license that would let it offer whiskey and other alcoholic drinks after after-hours fundraisers for local charities.

Owner Robert Ordway said this week he was selected by the Washington Scholars Program for a fellowship at The Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, which he said could lead to future possibilities in the next presidential administration.

“This is a great opportunity that I cannot afford to pass up,” he said.

Ordway now plans to close Rusted Oak on Jan. 5, and is discounting everything in stock by 40 to 80 percent.

Post-Trib: Valpo haberdasher has background in finance, politics

Reposted from Post-Trib Feb 10, 2016

Being somewhat of a night owl, I try to schedule interviews at the crack of noon. But my chat with Robert Ordway began before his store — Rusted Oak — opened for business. I could have used a shave and became all the more self-conscious when I realized that I’d spilled some jambalaya on my blue jeans from the night before. To make matters worse, as I pulled into the lot on Valparaiso’s square I noted that my black coat was coated with globs of snow white hair from my girlfriend’s one-eared cat.

Ordway, 30, is a haberdasher and quite the clothes horse.

Think: GQ meets Swamp People.

Were you born and raised in Valpo?

“No, I grew up in Lake Station,” he said. “I graduated from River Forest High School.”

The River Forest Ingots. Only in Northwest Indiana. College?

“I was the first one in my family to go to college. I was an Eli Lilly Endowment Scholar which is a full ride to anywhere in the state of Indiana. I went to Purdue for a year and then my dad passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease. That fall, I transferred to Valparaiso University. I graduated with a (bachelor of science in business administration) degree.

“When I graduated, is when the financial crisis started. Mine was probably the worst degree in America to have. There was probably a 30 to 40 percent contraction in the financial service industry pretty much over night.”

What did you do?

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“I went back to grad school in January of 2009 at Valparaiso University for international commerce and policy. On my third day of grad school, my mother took her own life. It made for a challenging year-and-a-half to get through grad school. But I finished with like a 3.89 (grade point average); I only had one B-plus. It was a good program and I learned a lot.

“In 2009, I interned for Mayor John Costas. In the spring of 2010, I interned for state representative Ed Soliday in Indianapolis. Once I was done with that, they needed people on the ground to run political campaigns, so I worked for the Republican House Campaign Committee and worked on Dan Klein’s campaign in Crown Point.”

This is good. I’m knocking out my annual Republican interview and it’s only January. Tell me about your people.

“Most of the Ordways migrated to Indiana from Western Kentucky, particularly when the mineral mines were depleting in the early 20th Century. My family came from Crittenden County to Gary during the1950s to get jobs at U.S. Steel.”

People from all over the world came to this area to land jobs in the steel mills.

“Unlike the rest of the state, which is mostly white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, this is by far the most diverse as far as ethnic backgrounds. You don’t hear about Pierogi Fest or Serb Fest in Indianapolis.”

Don’t get me started. I just went off on a professor emeritus from IU Bloomington the other day. I didn’t like the way he talked down to me regarding one of my columns. He told me I needed to buy his book and that it was available at Hoosier Press. Those are the folks who rejected my attempt of publishing a book about the people of Northwest Indiana. (Screw) them. I self-published and my book is selling like hot cakes.

“It’s because your book is unique. It’s not just about corporate blah, blah, blah. We live in a society that’s more individualistic, so reading and listening to realistic stories instead of some fictional timeless principle, well, people want something more authentic. I’ll sell your book here at Rusted Oak.”

Bob, you’re quickly becoming my favorite Republican.

“I believe in promoting local people doing local things.”

Let’s switch gears. When did you open this place?

“In November of last year. I’ve only been open for two months.

How’s business so far?

“January is a slow month, but December was good to us. I’ve been following the men’s clothing industry for about 10 years. I’m from a family whose dad and granddad were steel workers. Owning dress clothes didn’t exist. When my dad passed away, we buried him in my blue dress shirt because he didn’t own a dress shirt.”

“As a finance major, you start going to these career fairs and job interviews and you gotta be wearing a suit. I took an interest in it (clothing industry) in about 2005. When this situation presented itself, I thought there was a market opportunity here in Porter County.

“We don’t just sell clothing for retail’s sake, we offer advice. What do you for a living? What do you do for fun? How can we build a wardrobe that can perform across those different avenues? We have folks who may be steel workers by day, but may be golfers on the weekends. We have folks who are lawyers by day, but are deer hunters on the weekends.”

Describe some of your products.

“We definitely carry a lot of casual wear. There’s also our heavy lifting for the lawyers and doctors on a day-to-day basis in the white-collar world. We have all the suiting you can imagine. We’re also trying to hit more high school and college kids with a more youthful, preppy, clean look.”

“We removed this wall and exposed this brick which hadn’t been seen by people in 50 or 60 years. We had the original tin ceiling spray painted with metal flake copper. We want the place to be traditional, yet modern. Conservative, but progressive. We carry traditional cuff links and watches, but also handmade wooden combs out of Noblesville, Indiana. We have soap, deodorant and body wash all organically made. These cuff links here are made from steel pennies and buffalo nickels.”

Is there anything else that you’d like in your story?

“I’ve moved away twice. Once to Chicago and once to Indianapolis. I came back because I believe the opportunities here in Northwest Indiana are substantial. We have a phenomenal lake shore. Our proximity to Chicago – one of the largest economies in the world – combined with state business policies of Indiana being fairly frugal, lends us to being in an environment to recreate manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing jobs are at their lowest percentage in the history of the United States. I believe we are in a great position, whether you’re from Gary, Valparaiso, Lowell, Crown Point or Chesterton, to create a resurgence in the manufacturing industry. It just takes people in various sectors of the community to lead and work from a team approach. Those folks who do that are going to be the most successful in the long run.”

Wow, man. Final thoughts?

“Never be ashamed of what you do for a living and never forget where you came from.”

I believe Harry S. Truman would’ve liked young Robert Ordway.

I know I do.