The story of Roger C. Mosby’s introduction to Scouting is one to which many of us can relate: When his oldest son first signed up for Cub Scouts, he walked into a parent orientation meeting not knowing exactly what to expect.
One hour later, he walked out as the Cubmaster.
That started him down a path of more than 30 years as a Scouting volunteer, including time as Cubmaster of two different packs, Scoutmaster of one troop and committee chair of two different troops. He served in volunteer positions with Mid-America and Sam Houston Area councils before serving as the Southern Region Area Commissioner, Sothern Region Youth Protection Chair, and Audit Committee Chair of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.
Mosby is the first person in his position since James E. West — the BSA’s first professional Executive Secretary (as it was called back in 1911) — who wasn’t already a BSA professional when he accepted the position. Unlike his predecessors at the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Mosby’s title is not Chief Scout Executive. That title is reserved for commissioned BSA professionals — that is, full-time employees of the BSA who have undergone the required amount of training.
When he wasn’t volunteering, Mosby’s day job included running the entire Human Resources operation for more than 11,000 employees as a vice president at leading energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan, before retiring in 2015 and running his own consulting firm focused on executive coaching.
During all of this, three of his four sons earned the rank of Eagle.
Just a couple of weeks into his new job with the BSA, Mosby was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to speak about his goals for the BSA, his time as a Navy photographer in Vietnam and his favorite memory from his time as a Scout leader. Our conversation has been edited for content and clarity.
So, how’s the new job going?
It’s going well. It’s a little like the old phrase about sipping water from a firehose. I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of support. I looked two days ago, and I still had 500-something Facebook friend requests to accept, and it already seemed like I’d accepted a thousand of them. I’ve gotten sentiments like, “we think it’s great” … “let me know if there’s anything I can do.” It’s been nothing but overwhelming support, and that’s a good place to start.
Did you have any nervousness or trepidation about taking this job?
I had always envisioned that after I was retired that I would do more volunteer work, so, at first, I kind of headed down that path. I had spent years doing Scouting committee work, area work, regional work … even world work. It was very enjoyable and engaging, but I wanted to reconnect with why I got involved in Scouting in the first place – making a more direct impact on the lives of young people.
So, it was easy to say, “yes, I’ll do it”?
No. As a matter of fact, I said, “I can’t commit to something like that until I talk to my wife.” I knew from my past experiences – going through restructurings and purchases and acquisitions –that a job like this one takes over your life. It consumes you.
I talked to my wife. I said, “This opportunity has come up. It’s an incredible opportunity to make a difference.” We all say we get into Scouting to make a difference, but this is kind of a different level. It’s going to be all out. There won’t be much breathing room. She said, “I think you need to do it.”
The BSA is undergoing a period of extraordinary change right now. What are your thoughts on the overall direction of the Boy Scouts of America?
I’m a “for every door that’s closed, there’s another door that’s open” kind of a guy. When you think about it, the Boy Scouts didn’t change much during the early years of the movement. After World War II, a lot of things changed in America, but Scouting didn’t always adapt to those changes in the nation. When the organization’s growth plateaued and eventually began to decline, it still didn’t adapt. No business or organization can operate that way and watch its numbers continue to decline. That requires you to make some changes.
By the time we reached the 21st century, the U.S. family looked very different than it did in 1910, and the BSA began finally making some of the changes that were necessary to reach that rapidly changing U.S. family. Making those types of moves after such a long period of things being relatively the same doesn’t come without some bumps along the road, but it was necessary for the future success of this organization.
One of the biggest changes we’ve made is that the organization has expanded its view on who can be a member of the BSA. That actually sets us up for growth. I’m excited about what that means – especially to see Scouting continue to grow in its diversity and become a place that welcomes the whole family. Because U.S. families need Scouting maybe more than they ever have.
Do you have any specific goals for your time as president and CEO?
I think we need to develop an aspirational growth goal. I like to be aspirational about it. Could we go from where we are today to double or triple (our membership) in a few years? I think we can. The market is certainly there. The program is certainly there. If we can get in front of parents and kids and really show them what the Scouting program can do for them, how it can improve their family life and set children up for a bright future, then phenomenal growth is certainly possible.
You have been a volunteer with Scouting for three decades. How will that help you in your new job?
The (BSA Executive) Board knew what they wanted. They wanted someone who embraced the Scout Oath and Law. And that’s an easy one for me. I’ve spent the biggest part of my Scouting life on the volunteer side. But I’ve worked enough at the area, regional, and national levels to get a feel for how life is on that side. My perspective on the profession is not the same as someone who came up through the organization. I think I see it more from the viewpoint of what kind of services I’d like to see as a volunteer. What do I need as a volunteer to help me deliver a better program to that troop or pack? That’s the view I have.
One of your volunteer positions was Southern Region Youth Protection Chair. What are your thoughts on our current youth protection policies?
I am passionate about this. Keeping kids safe is our top priority, and I want to make sure every person in our organization understands the importance of protecting our youth. Our policies and procedures are among the strongest found in any youth-serving organization, and we are continually working to improve our policies to prevent abuse of any kind.
The BSA’s mandatory youth protection training was developed by experts and is regularly updated to reflect the latest knowledge and strategies for preventing, recognizing and responding to abuse. We also incorporate topics like cyberbullying into our materials to help protect kids online, where they’re spending more and more time. I believe the BSA is on the cutting edge of youth safety, and every day we think about what more we can do to protect children.
You were a Navy photographer in Vietnam. What was that experience like?
I was assigned to a reconnaissance attack squadron. Most of my time, I was with that squadron. They did very sensitive intelligence work. Most of it was done with aircraft. I did two tours of duty. One was on an aircraft carrier — the USS Ranger. The other was on the USS Saratoga. The Ranger was deployed to Vietnam. The Saratoga was deployed to the Caribbean. Most of the work I did was behind the scenes. It was interesting. It was something I value, that I spent that time serving my country. I value that I’m a veteran.
Is there a particular experience that stands out in your mind from your time as a volunteer?
My Philmont experience was wonderful and also literally a pain every day. I remember going to the doctor before I went to get the physical and all that. I asked if he had any advice, and he said, “take a couple of Tylenol in the morning and a couple of Tylenol at night. It will help with the pain you’re going to feel.”
And I found out in getting ready, I was ready to walk uphill, but I wasn’t ready to walk downhill, which was interesting. You’re using different muscles. I trained in Houston, which doesn’t have a lot of mountains. I thought I was in good shape, but it turns out I wasn’t in nearly as good a shape as I should have been.