Rob Kendall is an on-air personality with a fresh take on politics.
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
It was a career that was launched at just 18 years old when Rob Kendall began working as an intern at the old WKLU studio in Brownsburg. Soon thereafter, he became the radio producer for the Indianapolis Indians as well as the Butler Bulldogs (basketball and football). Then in 2006, Kendall started a company called Audio Sports Online, which broadcasts high school and college sporting events on the Internet.
“We do a lot of work with local schools like Avon and Plainfield,” Kendall says.
In 2011, he ran for town council in Brownsburg and, at age 27, became the youngest elected official. At the same time, he worked for the Indiana State auditor for a year. He also worked as the director for the Indiana Board of Pharmacy under then-governor Mike Pence.
“I took the least traveled path to politics,” says Kendall, noting that he only pursued the elected seat after starting his business and learning how much he and his fellow local businessmen were paying in taxes. “I got into elected office because I genuinely wanted to serve the community I love and grew up in.”
In 2015, around the time his term was ending, WYRZ got licensing approval from the FCC, and local DJ Shane Ray offered Kendall a nightly talk show.
“I had to decide if I was going to be a politician or a commentator because you can’t do both,” he says. “Talking about politics seemed better than being in it and getting yelled at all the time.”
After serving a four-year term, Kendall returned to his first love: radio.
“I carried through on the things I promised the community, and I was ready to start talking about issues on the radio and impact people in that way,” says Kendall, who in the fall of 2015 began hosting Central Indiana Today, where he interviewed a different area newsmaker each night.
This October, after wrapping the 500th show, Kendall opted to step down in order to devote more time to his personal life (he married Avon native Hailey in August).
In May 2016, Kendall had the chance to interview Donald Trump during the Indiana primaries. When he sat down with Trump, however, he approached the talk in a fresh way.
“Whenever I interview politicians, I strive to get to know them personally, so I can show a side to them that listeners can’t get anywhere else,” says Kendall, noting that he steered clear of queries regarding Ted Cruz, tax reform or Obamacare and instead broached subjects such as pro wrestling and Ryan White. As it turns out, Michael Jackson was staying at Trump’s hotel at the time White died. Trump offered to fly Jackson to White’s house and together they visited with the family.
That interview caught the attention of those at WIBC — a station where Kendall had dreamt of working since he was a boy riding to school with his dad, listening to Rush Limbaugh on the car radio. WIBC — the ninth largest communications company in the world — has been around since the 40s, making it a source of news and information for generations.
Kendall was asked to join the station in a part-time capacity. They then started adding responsibilities, and now he hosts “The Rob Kendall Show” from 1-3 p.m. on Sundays and produces “The Chicks on the Right,” a show with more than a million Facebook followers. For that show, he introduces five to seven news stories, then lets the “chicks” comment on the stories. Kendall’s experience in politics enables him to infuse his perspective on state and local government, which balances the national perspective.
Kendall also hosts a 30-minute weekly podcast on WYRZ called Capital Happenings in which he and Senator Jim Merritt discuss hot-button topics in Indiana government.
“I’ll ask Senator Merritt what’s going on in the session each week. What’s being debated? What’s the potential outcome?” Kendall says. “It’s a way to provide transparency to our state government.”
When the Senate is out of session, Kendall hosts guests like Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, who explained “text 911,” designed to encourage individuals to text for help if they spot someone in trouble (without being held liable for reporting it). Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch also discussed the state’s disaster preparedness procedures in the wake of the tempestuous hurricane season.
“Radio and politics have both given me such a unique opportunity to learn America’s story,” Kendall says. “I get to learn about people from all walks of life, and I love that. I probably know more about the people in the Hendricks County community than anybody simply because I listen.”