From the Upland Columbus Pump House to the White House, Columbus native Mike Pence is giving his friends the thrill of a lifetime as he becomes the country’s next vice president.

Local businessman and entrepreneur Tony Moravec, a longtime Pence supporter, invited his friend to lunch at the Pump House on June 27 just days before it opened and the two men struck up their conversation as though it had been interrupted just for a short time, as old friends do.

And that conversation renewed again during Tuesday’s election when Moravec sent a text message to Pence congratulating him on the Trump/Pence ticket’s success.

“We texted a bit, but there wasn’t a lot of time for conversation,” Moravec said of the exchange Wednesday. “He’s extremely busy right now.”

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Moravec is just one of many Columbus residents who are celebrating having the person they know as “Mike” heading to the White House in January.

For Moravec, it’s a continuation of what he saw in Pence when he began supporting the candidate in his 2012 run for governor, signing on for Pence’s conservative values and the fact he grew up in Columbus.

“I felt proud that he was one of us,” Moravec said of his support for Pence. “He was out in the world trying to make it a better place.”

Moravec was questioned by his children about some of Trump’s statements during the campaign. Moravec said he could only answer that as a businessman, he was supporting the policies and conservative values that Trump and Pence stood for.

“I told them I was trying to overlook the idiosyncrasies. I felt like there was a silent group of people who were not going to say we were in love with Donald’s antics and he said some things that annoyed a lot of people. I told them I’m supporting the policies and conservative issues Trump stands for. He’s a strong-headed businessman, not a polished politician.”

As for Pence, Moravec said he had no hesitation in his support, and not just because of their friendship.

“Mike can do it. He can handle it,” Moravec said of Pence stepping into a national role. “He’s experienced. He’s educated. He’s well-grounded in all the things the people in the heartland believe in. He’s solid as a rock. He exudes confidence and stability.”

Boyhood buddy

Growing up with a house of sisters, childhood friend Jeff Brown recalls how different it was when he visited Pence and his three brothers at their home in the Everroad Park West subdivision.“It was a lot louder over there,” said Brown during a Wednesday morning telephone interview while he was vacationing in Arizona.

But even as a kid, Brown said he could see that the vice president-elect’s father, Edward Pence, was a guiding force on his sons.

“Mike’s father pulled himself up from bootstraps, and told them they needed to find their own mountains to climb,” Brown said. “And they all did that.”

While the former owner of The Republic said he didn’t expect Pence would receive the type of support a majority of American voters provided, Brown knows the hard work his long-time friend put into the campaign.

So close were Brown and Pence that the two of them stood up in each other’s weddings.

“Mike has always wanted to succeed on the national level, doing what he’s incredibly passionate about,” Brown said. “To watch a friend make history like that is just amazing.”

High school chum

DeWayne Hines, vice chairman of the Republican Party of Bartholomew County, has known Mike Pence since they were students at Columbus North High School 40 years ago.Reacting to the idea that someone he knew as a teenager will be the next vice president, Hines said the two weren’t thinking about that possibility back in their high school years.

“I just think it’s really neat somebody from a small town in America can go that far,” he said.

Hines said Pence’s ability to listen and care for people, his groundedness in the Midwest mindset, are things that will help him in his work as vice president.

“He has a way of listening to all sides and balancing the needs of everyone when he makes a decision,” Hines said. “He’s always been a leader and he’s always been a person who is willing to take the first step to find a solution.

Hines, who works for the Bartholomew County Assessor’s office, said he didn’t have any advice for Pence other than staying true to himself as the new vice president.

And Hines continues to be amazed how Pence is always able to remember people’s names no matter how much time passes between seeing friends again.

“I just never thought a vice president of the United States would know my name,” he said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.