Ted Sullivan of the Madison Kiwanis Club is now the governor of the club’s Indiana district. Sullivan’s father, Jack. was also a governor for the Indiana district. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Ted Sullivan of the Madison Kiwanis Club is now the governor of the club’s Indiana district. Sullivan’s father, Jack. was also a governor for the Indiana district.

(Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Ted Sullivan never expected to be a full-time member of Kiwanis like his father. He also probably never expected to become governor of the Indiana Kiwanis district like his father, either.

But Sullivan has done just that. As of Oct. 1, he was officially sworn in as the chief of the state's Kiwanis chapter. He is the third governor from the southeastern part of the state - including his father - and only the second from the Madison chapter.

As a teenager, Sullivan said, he used to wait at home on the nights his dad had a Kiwanis meeting to find out what events he had been volunteered to help out with the next weekend.

Growing up, he never expected to be a member of Kiwanis. Sullivan, who has been a member of Kiwanis since 1998, said he felt he would be unable to balance his work at Arkema in Carrollton, Ky., with being a member, so he didn't join until after he retired.

The process for becoming the governor of Kiwanis begins by being nominated by a local club. After that point, members of each division come up with a nomination. Each division has 10 to 12 clubs. Then all the districts come together with choices who are then voted upon.

"That was nerve-racking," Sullivan said of the process.

Both his opponents ended up dropping out of the race due to the support he had gotten from southern Indiana, leaving him uncontested for the spot during the elections.

"I was very awestruck by all the support I've gotten," he said.

Although the position is technically a one-year term, Sullivan said the job actually requires a four-year commitment. The first year after the election is spent as the governor-elect. During that time, committee members are set and the governor learns about the duties of the office.

The second year is actually spent serving as governor, which Sullivan started earlier this month.

After his term as governor, Sullivan will spend a year as the immediate past governor, which is when he will review documents and issue reports from the previous year.

The final year is spent serving as a committee member for various Kiwanis committees.

"I never had a notion of going anywhere past lieutenant governor (the head of the division)," Sullivan said.

The idea to run for governor began while he was at a Kiwanis International convention and a past governor suggested he run.

After that, more suggestions that he run began coming in.

The best part of his involvement in the organization is what he calls the "Kiwanis moment." The first time he remembers seeing it was during a carnival at Riley Hospital for children who survived the neonatal intensive care unit.

He asked what he could do to help, and Sullivan was told he could blow bubbles. Though it seemed like an odd request, he obliged, and has worked his way up to eight bubble machines as well as plastic pistols that children can play with and shoot bubbles from.

"When you first look at their face, you think there's no way they can smile. But you can see the smile in their eyes," he said.,"These kids just win you over.

"They rip your heart out one moment and make you laugh the next," he said.

When he's not taking part in Kiwanis activities, Sullivan and his wife like to search for antiques and restore their home on Mill Street. Sullivan said he and his wife also go out on the river occasionally.

Sullivan has lived in Madison for 21 years. He spent 11 years in the Navy and spent a short time working in Cincinnati, but said he's always felt a connection to the Madison area and enjoyed coming here in his youth.

Kiwanis involvement is a family thing for Sullivan. His father was involved and his brother and son are both involved. Sullivan has another son and two sisters who are considering joining chapters of Kiwanis and a third son who helps whenever he can.

"It's something I believe in wholeheartedly," he said. "I believe there's a lot of young children that have been guided the right way because of Kiwanis.

"I've got several people that told me that once you get into it, service is so self-rewarding you can't stop."