A salute to outgoing National Commissioner Tico Perez, a Scouting stalwart

Tico's-favorite-Scouting-memoriesTico Perez has received nearly every award in Scouting: Eagle Scout, Silver Buffalo Award, Order of the Arrow Distinguished Service Award — the list goes on.

He has served on the committees that selected the past three Chief Scout Executives.

And everywhere he goes he speaks passionately about Scouting, presenting a powerful, often off-the-cuff argument for why this movement matters so much. His words envelop you.

His successor as national commissioner, Charles Dahlquist, is well equipped to take the mantle. But first, I wanted to look back on Tico’s transformative tenure.

During some times of immense change for the Scouting movement, Tico has helped lead the way.

(Though I typically refer to adults by their last names on this blog, it seems wrong to do so here. To the thousands of volunteers and professionals who know him, Hector A. Perez is known simply as “Tico.”)

A leader among leaders

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Tico took over as national commissioner at the BSA’s annual meeting in May 2008; his term ends at that same meeting in May 2016.

In those eight years, Tico served as a member of the BSA’s National Key 3 alongside four national presidents and three Chief Scout Executives.

Tico, a volunteer, has been a consistent presence at the table as an evolving roster of BSA volunteers and professionals shaped the movement’s direction.

“I think that my role as the institutional memory of issues, matters we have discussed, challenges we have faced and approaches we have tried has been of benefit to the other members of the Key 3 through the years,” Tico says. “That is the beauty of the Key 3 structure.”

Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh agrees. He says Tico’s vast BSA knowledge helped his transition into the role of Chief.

“As a new Chief Scout Executive, it was invaluable to have the institutional knowledge of Tico and his unique perspective on our movement,” Surbaugh writes in a post on his blog. “As I often struggled with the day-to-day work of moving us past our immediate challenges and starting us down a pathway to growth, Tico was the one I called.”

Learning from other leaders

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Tico says he has learned from each of the seven members of the Key 3 with whom he has served.

On John Gottschalk, BSA president from 2008 to 2010: “We introduced the New BSA in 2008. No more hiding from the media. We were going to tell our story and define ourselves.”

On Rex Tillerson, BSA president from 2010 to 2012: “As a true Scouter, Rex was always interested in the view from the field and what our front lines of Scouting were talking about and thinking. He brought us back to our core mission: to serve more young people.”

On Wayne Perry, BSA president from 2012 to 2014: “Wayne and I dealt with the first round of membership standards changes, and I have never seen a more dedicated and principled person put the movement ahead of his life.”

On Robert M. Gates, BSA president from 2014 to 2016: “What can you say about Bob Gates? From Bob you immediately learn process, amazingly quick analysis, transparency and integrity. Bob’s dedication, focus and attention to detail for the movement have been remarkable.”

On Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive from 2007 to 2012: “Bob ignited pure passion for Scouting and love of the movement. His passion was infectious and was exactly what we needed as we entered the 100th anniversary of the BSA.”

On Wayne Brock, Chief Scout Executive from 2012 to 2015: “I have never met a man who cared more about Scouting than Wayne Brock, and it was essential that Wayne be at the helm during the two rounds of membership standards discussions we had. That family conversation was a difficult one, and Wayne’s patient and engaged leadership was one of the key reasons our movement survived.”

On Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive from 2015 to present: “I am very excited about what the future holds for the BSA under Mike. He is smart, deliberative and decisive. He has a great plan to work over the next several years, and we all just need to follow his lead.”

Speaking from the heart

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If you’ve ever been lucky enough to hear Tico speak — at the countless council events at which he has volunteered his time, at national jamborees or at national meetings — you’ve no doubt noticed how the guy can captivate an audience.

Every time I’ve seen him speak, it’s invigorating. He makes you want to give even more of your time and effort to this great movement.

The secret, he says, is passion.

“Conveying my message to the crowd is easy. I’m talking about Scouting,” he says. “I love this movement — but more importantly, I know that this movement matters. I know that the work we do is good. I truly believe that we are divinely inspired and that being a volunteer in Scouting is a calling.”

In his role as national commissioner, Tico has toured the country. And at each stop along the way, he does more than just speak. He listens.

“I have heard stories of how Scouting has changed and saved lives,” he says. “All I do is tell the stories. Scouting does the rest.”

A champion for those who need one

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Among Tico’s many legacies in Scouting will be his work with young people in multicultural markets and with disadvantaged youth.

In Scouting, Tico says, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, black or white. All that matters is you’re a Scout.

“One of the many beauties of Scouting is that we are a true meritocracy,” he says. “I love that the only awards you get in Scouting are those you earn. I have always said that there are many boys who want Scouting, and there are many others who need Scouting. They need adult role models, they need adult supervision, someone to create expectations for them, to tell them ‘no’ sometimes, to have someone to talk to, to relate to and who understands and can inspire them.

“All boys need this. My focus on disadvantaged youth is to make sure that they get the same chance at experiencing Scouting as everyone else.”

Strengthening partnerships with our chartered partners

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Like commissioners at the unit, district, council, area and regional levels, the national commissioner works with the chartered organizations that support Scout units.

Tico has done remarkable work in strengthening those relationships on a national level. But he knows we all can do even more.

We should “talk to them, engage them and keep them as our partners,” Tico says. “We have, as a movement, not focused as we should on our chartered organizations. Our structure is so unique and our partnerships so strong because of our chartered organizations. We need to reinvest our time and effort, every day, to make those relationships stronger.”

I asked Tico what advice he might have for Dahlquist, his successor as national commissioner and the man he calls an “extraordinary Scouter.”

“I don’t think Charles needs my advice, but I have shared with him two thoughts,” Tico says. “First, never forget the volunteer and the youth in every conversation and decision. And second, leave the Commissioner Service Team exactly the way it is. That team has carried so much water and done so much work to make the commissioner corps a success.”

Continuing to serve Scouting

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Though his left sleeve will no longer bear the patch of the national commissioner, Tico isn’t putting away his uniform any time soon.

He’ll serve as the newly created vice president of diversity for the BSA.

In that role, he’ll look at diversity in all levels of Scouting — from youth and unit leaders to the BSA’s national staff.

“We have a lot of work to do in order to serve every young person in America,” he says. “I hope I can move the ball forward for the sake of the young folks who have not yet been blessed to be a part of Scouting.”

If the past has taught us anything, it’s this: If Tico is on our team, great things will happen.