BSA names Michael Surbaugh its 13th Chief Scout Executive


The Boy Scouts of America today named Michael Surbaugh its 13th Chief Scout Executive. In his role as the BSA’s top professional, Surbaugh will help lead our movement during an exciting, important time for Scouting.

But he won’t do it alone. He joins two volunteer counterparts: Dr. Robert M. Gates, our national president, and Tico Perez, our national commissioner, to form the National Key 3.

Surbaugh will succeed Wayne Brock, who is retiring in October after a three-year term.

For the past year, Surbaugh has served Scouting as the BSA’s Group Director of Human Resources, Innovation, Exploring and Learning for Life. But his BSA story begins long before that.

Surbaugh, an Eagle Scout, is a Vigil Honor Member of the Order of the Arrow. He loves the outdoors, which explains the fact that he was a camp director and summer camp staffer for 12 years. He graduated from Salem College in West Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in youth agency administration.

Mike-SurbaughSurbaugh’s first BSA job was in 1984 as a district executive in Jacksonville, Fla. He later served as a senior district executive and program director in Syracuse, N.Y. and director of field services, director of development, field director and development director in Minneapolis. Surbaugh also spent time as Scout executive, leading councils in Sioux Falls, S.D.; Appleton, Wis.; and Pittsburgh.

As a group director at the BSA, Surbaugh has achieved success in three vital areas: fundraising, membership and program development. He has developed numerous innovative programs designed to meet the needs of employees, volunteers and youth.

Through it all he has worked to extend Scouting’s reach in disadvantaged communities. He has led outreach to American Indians. He has helped Scouts with special needs achieve success.

Now Surbaugh will help the BSA achieve success as Chief, and he said he’s “honored and humbled” to take the reins this fall. The next five months will be a transition period for Surbaugh, and he said he’s ready to get started right away.

“As I transition into this role, I am committed to continuing the legacy of leadership to solidify Scouting’s role in the development of America’s youth and to empower our volunteers to deliver the kind of life-changing experiences that can only be found within Scouting,” he said.

A tip of our cap to Wayne Brock, the 12th Chief

Wayne Brock

Brock will continue to serve Scouting until his retirement on Oct. 1, so there will be more opportunities to honor his impressive career and legacy. But now seems like a fitting time to tip our cap to the BSA’s 12th Chief Scout Executive.

Brock, an Eagle Scout, began his professional Scouting career in 1972 as a district executive in New Bern, N.C., and then served on the council staff in Knoxville, Tenn.

He also served as Scout executive in Athens, Ga.; Scout executive in Orlando, Fla.; Southern region director; assistant Chief Scout Executive; and Deputy Chief Scout Executive/Chief Operating Officer.

He became the BSA’s 12th Chief Scout Executive in 2012. And though his retirement date is set for Oct. 1, he won’t leave the organization entirely. Brock said he plans to continue serving Scouting as a volunteer.

Brock is a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, Order of the Arrow Distinguished Service Award and received his bachelor’s degree in music education from East Carolina University.

Brock and his wife, Ernestine, have a grown son and one granddaughter.

Please join me in wishing our outgoing Chief the best of luck as he begins a new chapter of his life this fall.

What is a Chief Scout Executive?

CSE Patch New.jpgThe Chief Scout Executive is the top paid professional in Scouting. From James E. West, who served as our first Chief, to Brock and now Surbaugh, each of these men has served a critical role in guiding the massive Scouting movement into the future.

To put it another way: If the BSA were a corporation, the Chief Scout Executive would be our CEO.

The Chief’s task is to work with the National Key 3 to lead National Council employees, local council employees, 1 million adult volunteers and — most important of all — 2.4 million youth participants.

A committee of nine members of the BSA National Executive Board selects the Chief. Dr. Robert M. Gates, an Eagle Scout and former secretary of defense, served as the selection committee’s chairman this year.

List of BSA Chief Scout Executives through history

Including Surbaugh, there have been only 13 Chief Scout Executives in our organization’s 105-year history. These are the 13 men who have served the BSA as our top professional:

  1. 1911–1943, James E. West
  2. 1943–1948, Elbert K. Fretwell
  3. 1948–1960, Arthur Schuck
  4. 1960–1967, Joseph A. Brunton Jr.
  5. 1967–1976, Alden G. Barber
  6. 1976–1979, Harvey L. Price
  7. 1979–1984, J. L. Tarr
  8. 1985–1993, Ben H. Love
  9. 1993–2000, Jere B. Ratcliffe
  10. 2000–2007, Roy Williams
  11. 2007–2012, Robert J. Mazzuca
  12. 2012–2015, Wayne Brock
  13. 2015–        , Michael Surbaugh

Learn more

For more on this story, turn to Scouting Newsroom.


  1. “… an exciting, important time for Scouting.” No doubt it shall be. Congratulations Chief – let’s see what you’ve got.

    • I mean Scouting is always exciting and important, but what makes the coming years such an important and exciting time for Scouting? Is there something you’d like to share with the rest of us as to what will make Surbaugh’s time exciting and important, Bryan?

      • More of a general excitement about Scouting. In my 24 years in the program (as a Scout, volunteer and now professional) I find it keeps getting better and better.

  2. Welcome aboard Michael and best of success to you Wayne!

    Looking forward to your insight Michael on reaching disadvantaged communities and American Indians, as we have both in our District.

    As well, if I can be so bold, we need to become more relevant to the youth we serve. So if we are the premier outdoor action program, promote it better that way. In addition, do a better job at things like social media, which people have gravitated to for information.

    Onward and upward!

  3. Thank You for your distinguished service Mr. Brock, I won’t say goodbye just see you later because I’m sure we’ll see you somewhere on the trail!

    Thank You Mr. Surbaugh for stepping up, an into this awesome but dutiful position of leadership. I so look forward to working with you to continue the Legacy of helping to shape the lives of young men and women through Scouting. As a District Membership Chair, Cubmaster, and Troop Committee member; I’d love to chat with you someday about all three of the areas you’ve achieved such great success in ( Membership, fundraising and, Program development.)
    I eat, sleep, and breathe Scouting, and as a mom of two current and 1 future Scout, you can count on me to help keep scouting alive and well for many years to come!!

    God Speed in this new career opportunity!

  4. Dear Mr. Surbough,

    I challenge you to do an “undercover boss” like thing and actually go out in all regions and work with Scouts and leaders in deck plate level situations.

    You need to see the impact that all the decisions that come out of Texas really are.

    Imagine seeing all the hurdles and contradictory things we volunteers actually deal with month after month to deliver the promise of Scouting. You need to leave Texas and actually see who the real stakeholders of this organization and who the real owners of Scouting are.

    So I formally challenge you: Will you accept?
    We meet on Mondays. Ask Bryan for my contact info.

    Mr. Don

      • “What makes you think that he (or other CSEs) don’t already do that?”

        If they did, we shouldn’t have seen half the stupidity that has come out of National over the past 10-20 years. National seems to be as “in touch” with grassroots level Scouting as the New York Times or Mother Jones editorial staff.

        • Not agreeing with the decisions, philosophies and methods of the BSA’s management does not mean that they are necessarily out of touch…. heck, they may be more in touch with the bigger picture than you are.

          Here’s a quick antidote: The Scout Executive and CEO of my council is very in touch with the Scouting program. He actually is a registered leader in my troop (of which his son is also a member). He attends weekly troop meetings, goes camping with us about a half dozen times a year and even attends the week at summer camp with the troop as an Assistant Scoutmaster. In fact many of the leaders he meets at camp and the staff members and volunteers he encounters out in the program areas don’t even realize who he is! He’s just another leader. He says it very much is an “undercover boss” type situation, he can see the program in action and hear the buzz on the trail (he even wears a shirt with green shoulder loops and an ASM patch; not silver loops with a Executive patch when at troop events).

          However there are still many leaders and volunteers throughout the council who say he is “out of touch” simply because they don’t agree with (or understand) all of his decisions or priorities or methods.

          So can you give me an example of “all the hurdles and contradictory things we volunteers actually deal with month after month” that you’d like Michael Surbaugh to experience first-hand? Can you give me an example of a decision that came out of Text that has had a detrimental impact that you’d like Surbaugh to reconsider or revise?

    • Unfortunately, that’s an old article.

      Of course, it also points to the most sensible choice. There’s still time for us to implement it.

  5. I can’t help but feel so many of our problems with youth today can be traced back to someone deciding we actually need a “Bachelor’s Degree in Youth Agency Administration.”

    In any case, best of luck to Mike and the rest of the “Key 3” as they try to save Scouting for our children and their children. Mr Don has an excellent idea on opening the eyes of people to how things work in the trenches. As I join my son on his next stage of Scouting, I hope we can continue to make Scouting the exciting, boy-led, adventure it has been and should be in the future.

    • I respectfully disagree. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a Bachelor’s Degree in Youth Agency Administration, but I’m glad to know that there is one, and that a person with such qualifications will now hold this position of importance.

  6. Please consider spending a little more time where the rubber hits the road (troop level), and less time in the front office. Thank you, and we look forward to your good work.

    Scoutmaster Bill

  7. If Scouting wants to see a huge resurgence in numbers and donations they need to forget the handful of gay people and open all the ranks to girls. There are literally thousands of girls chomping at the bit to get into the Scouting Program. Open the OA to registered female youth!

    • Obviously we are neglecting a huge population. Scouting should be for everyone who wants to live by the Scout Oath and Law regardless of gender or orientation. Good point.


    • Yes, less than 5% of Americans self-identify as being homosexual. But the BSA’s ban on homosexual leaders isn’t hurting our numbers simply because a “handful of gay people” can’t be members. Recent surveys show that more than 77% of Americans have a close friend, work colleague or relative who is gay or lesbian. That’s what’s hurting our numbers! We aren’t just cutting off a “handful of gay people” from becoming members; we’re cutting off a large portion of the population who don’t want to support or join an organization that would exclude their family and friends. I know many heterosexual boys who are perfectly eligible to join the BSA, but they don’t because their parents (or uncle, or friend, or teacher, or neighbor, etc.) can’t join.


  8. “If the BSA were a corporation, the Chief Scout Executive would be our CEO.”

    We are a corporation (and that’s OK), and he is our CEO. 🙂

  9. While Chief Mike sounds like a great selection, I would love to know who else was on the National Executive Board’s “short list” for CSE.

    I didn’t see volunteer service in the great overview of “what we’re getting” above, other than Chief Mike served as part of a summer camp operation for many years (which is great, because the BSA is getting back to outdoor programs and management of those outdoor programs even moreso now). He also has West Virginia ties (which will help our continued relationships with that state and our Summit Reservation there).

    Where was Chief Mike a Boy Scout at — Troop and local Council (not that it matters much to me as an adult; but some Scout will be reading this like I read old copies of SCOUTING and Boys’ Life as a youth and learned the backgrounds of Alden Barber and Joe Brunton. It made me feel great that former Scoutmasters “rose up” to become professionals and then Chief Scout Executive…that the job was not a “gimme”).

    Great luck, Chief to be!!

    • • Gary Butler, deputy Chief Scout Executive/COO
      • Ron Green, Scout executive, Greater St. Louis Area Council
      • Tom Harrington, regional director, Western Region
      • Ron Oats, Scout executive, Central Florida Council
      • Patrick Sterrett, Scout executive, Crossroads of America Council
      • Mike Surbaugh, group director, HR/Scouting U/Design and Development
      • Tom Varnell, Scout executive, Sam Houston Area Council

      I believe the top 3 were Patrick, Mike, and Tom. That’s what I hear anyways

  10. Mike W.: From an Eagle Court of Honor program posted from Mike’s time as SE in Pittsburgh: “Mike is an Eagle Scout from Troop 360, Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, and is a graduate of West Virginia’s Salem College. He holds a degree in non-profit administration. Mike served on several summer camp staffs for 16 years, serving in Scoutcraft, as Aquatics Director, and as Camp Director. His love of the outdoors was nurtured while serving on the Camp Tionesta and Camp Anawanna staffs.”

    More at

    I don’t recall which Pack, but I was a Cub Scout in Bethel Park … left for St. Louis in ’68.

    I was very impressed by the program knowledge and openness of the CSE to be back in 2009, as he announced the “New Delivery Method” for Cub Scouting, and also worked on some programs to be sure that the Cub Scout program as delivered would be aligned to what we say the programs outcomes should be.

  11. Congratulations, Mike! I have no doubt that you will be successful in your new role. We at Bay Lakes Council are proud to have benefitted from your leadership!

  12. Mr. Surbaugh is probably a solid professional, but the BSA needs an outsider chosen who can take calculated risks to get this organization moving. The BSA has been declining in membership, selling camps, and merging councils since the Seventies. Ford Motor Co. picked an outsider who brought that company back; why can’t the BSA do the same? May Jere Ratcliffe resist in peace, but he was a caretaker Chief Scout Executive, like so many others, The BSA needs someone from the private sector with a vision who can lead and act — not someone easing his way into a secure retirement.

    • Outdoorsteps, let me apologize in advance for hurting your feelings and stepping on your toes. Your statement about bringing in outside people to turn Scouting around as the top Professional Scouting Executive is misplsced and shows that you don’t have any idea what Professional Scouters do. There is a hierarchy to the professional ranks. The Scouting that professionals do is in no shape or form similar to the Scouting that volunteers or youth participate in. Their motivations and methodology are very different. scout Executives spend years training, learning, and working in a high stress, production based, and merit based system. They are trained to handle situations that arise before the public is aware of their existence. They deal with all aspects of the Scouting Program and the Professional Scouting Program. An outside person would never be able to adequately manage the system that is in place. As a former Professional Scouter who quickly realized that it was not the career path for me, I could say more but hopefully I won’t need to.

  13. Does anyone know Mr Surbaurgh’s family situation? Would breath a hesitant sigh of relief if he has/had boys in the program.

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