Shawn Sullivan's age belies his experience as Gov.-elect Sam Brownback's appointee for secretary of aging.
Sullivan, 34, has been executive director of the Kansas Masonic Home in Wichita for three years.
Though his resume shows that he's had just over a decade of experience as the administrator of skilled-nursing homes and assisted-living centers — in Atwood, Lyons, Newton and Wichita — he knows something about caring for the elderly at the bedside.
At 16, the Rose Hill native and son of a registered nurse trained as a certified nurse aide.
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It's a part-time occupation he held at nursing homes in and around Wichita as he worked his way through high school and then as an undergraduate at Kansas State University.
Working at different nursing homes gave him insight to "the difference that the quality of leadership could make."
But the seed of his career in senior care was planted even earlier, when he was 10. That's when his grandmother was diagnosed with what he called a debilitating cancer.
His mom quit her job for a year to care for his grandmother, who moved into their home.
"She had told my mother she better never put her in a nursing home," Sullivan said Friday.
"I saw the value of service to others in that one year," he said.
Sullivan, who has a master's degree in applied gerontology from the University of North Texas, said his appointment is very exciting.
"It's bittersweet that I'm leaving KMH ... but I'm also excited about the ability to effect change across the state," he said.
Sullivan said he wasn't ready to detail the kinds of changes he'd like to see.
At a news conference at the Kansas Food Bank on Friday morning, Brownback said Sullivan "is a visible and committed force in the local and national senior-living industry."
Brownback noted the three times Sullivan has been recognized by the Kansas Department on Aging for instituting nontraditional models of care.
"He's one of the most innovative leaders in the aging industry in the state of Kansas," Brownback said.
Sullivan's appointment must be confirmed by the Kansas Senate.