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J. Sebastian Smelko serves in Ice Miller’s Public Affairs Practice, where he focuses on infrastructure investment and economic development structures, as well as governmental affairs. He is the co-leader of the Firm’s Public Infrastructure Vertical. Sebastian has a varied government relations practice that combines public affairs advocacy, traditional legal skills and strategic policy and political guidance. Sebastian’s previous experience includes serving as general counsel for the Ports of Indiana and as a policy director and assistant general counsel in the office of former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. He prides himself on being a unique thinker related to challenges and strives to become a collaborative team member who works towards identifying solutions.

Sebastian possesses a breadth of knowledge of the executive branch of government and procurement processes, analyzing and drafting policy initiatives and ushering legislation through the general assembly. He has experience in developing and drafting numerous pieces of legislation, including those impacting Public-Private Partnerships (P3) matters. With the enactment of the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) and other COVID-related federal funding streams, Sebastian has advised local governments throughout the state on how best to utilize these increases in funding. With his counsel, local leaders throughout the state have been able to maximize the impact of these federal dollars to meet the specific needs of their communities.


Sebastian has worked on economic development projects, which include analysis of project delivery methods, with regional development authorities, port authorities and public utilities on energy policy initiatives. This includes working on the largest commuter rail expansion in Indiana’s history in the West Lake Corridor and the Double Tracking of the South Shore Line in northwest Indiana. Furthermore, he drafted and ushered through the Indiana statehouse the legislation to encourage transit-oriented development.

Sebastian’s unique perspective in achieving his clients’ goals stems from his time on the Governor's staff, where he oversaw a variety of legal and policy matters associated with the state of Indiana. He directed, managed and liaised with executive branch general counsels on a range of sensitive issues. As assistant general counsel, Sebastian advised and helped manage major litigation cases involving the state of Indiana and advised on issues such as casino gaming policy, document retention policy, capital punishments, public records, administrative rulemaking, legislative strategy, parole and sentencing structures and crisis/emergency management.
Sebastian was appointed to the Marion County Judicial Selection Committee for a four-year term by the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives. He serves on the COVID-19 Recovery Taskforce for Aim (Accelerate Indiana Municipalities). Sebastian is engaged with the Association for the Improvement of American Infrastructure (AIAI) and sits on several committees including the Operations and Maintenance Committee, the Risk and Performance, the Water Infrastructure Committee and the Bi-State Working Group.
A frequent speaker on local, regional and national platforms, Sebastian has presented on topics including infrastructure investment, procurement delivery models and P3 in addition to gaming regulation, technology, public records laws, sports, politics and criminal sentencing reform.
Sebastian is a native of Pennsylvania and grew up in Punxsutawney, PA. He now lives in downtown Indianapolis with his wife, daughters and their Newfoundland.
Speaking Engagements
  • Co-Panelist with Mike Flint, 2023 AIM Indiana: Mayor's Institute, Filling the Financial Gap-A Primer on Local, State, and Federal Economic Development Incentives for Municipal Projects, March 14, 2023
  • Panelist, 2022 AIM Indiana Webinar, Social Media and Public Access Considerations, August 25, 2022
  • Panelist, Indiana Municipal Continuing Legal Education, Using the Build-Operate-Transafer (BOT) Statute and Structuring Considerations for P3s, August 24, 2022
  • Panelist, 2022 Indiana Conference of Mayors, Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Statute, August 11, 2022
  • Panelist 2022 Indiana Municipal Lawyers Association, Opportunities Under the Build Transfer Statute and the Structures of Public Private Partnerships, June 23, 2022
  • Moderator, 2021 P3 Conference - Opportunity Analysis for Large Infrastructure Projects: How Do You Stay Creative and Innovative While Working on a P3 Project?, September 14, 2021
  • Guest lecturer, Indiana University SPEA Class - Public Policy & the Legislative Process
  • Panelist, "Rail Projects Generations in the Making - How It Happened" during the P3 Government Conference with Bill Hanna, President & CEO of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, December 10, 2020
  • Panelist, How to Work With Your Advisors to Achieve Your Project Deliverables, Convention Sports and Entertainment Facilities Conference hosted by the Association for the Improvement of American Infrastructure (AIAI), August 14, 2020
  • "The Opportunity Zone Program: Selecting Your Opportunity Zones (Indiana)" Webinar, March 14, 2018
  • "The Opportunity Zone Program: Selecting Your Opportunity Zones (Indiana)" Webinar, March 8, 2018
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