When Roger Mosby became the BSA’s President and CEO in December 2019, he did so at the beginning of an extraordinary time of both change and opportunity for the entire organization.
Four years later, Mosby has announced his retirement, having successfully navigated the turbulent waters of bankruptcy, the unchartered territory of a global pandemic, and then a steady rise in membership.
He is succeeded at the BSA by Roger Krone, who will also begin his tenure as President and CEO.
Before Mosby left his office at the BSA National Council headquarters in Irving, Texas, he was kind enough to sit down with me one last time and reflect on his time as Chief Scout Executive.
You can watch the conversation in its entirety below, or read on for the highlights.
Congratulations on your retirement! What kind of emotions are you feeling right now?
Probably some very mixed emotions. When you do something for a period of time — and it doesn’t seem like long on some days, but on some days it seems like a lot longer — you get used to doing that. You get into a routine. For me, stepping into the future, it’ll be a matter of getting used to that routine again.
You knew when you took the job that the BSA was about to embark on a period of extraordinary change. That certainly turned out to be the case. What was that journey like for you?
I had some sense of what the bankruptcy was going to look like. What I didn’t count on was COVID. A lot of things happened in 2020. We filed for bankruptcy in February. And right around that period of time, COVID did kick in. It ended up becoming very serious, not only for society, but for us at the BSA. The LDS church had decided in 2019 that they would take their youth program in another direction, and that became effective in 2020. I have to admit, I didn’t see all that coming. That made things a lot more complicated, especially when it came to keeping youth in the program, and attracting new youth into the program, when you had to try to do that with Zoom.
There was a time there where we were all shut down. We even missed a National Scout Jamboree. We have since reopened. Talk about your experience through that.
We did incredibly well, given that nobody knew what the next day was going to bring. I think we pivoted pretty good. If someone had told me six months beforehand that this thing was going to shut society down, and now you have to plan for that, I’m not sure most people could do a good job of that. But at the BSA, we pivoted very well. We got stuff done remotely. The really disappointing thing is that many children had to go to a Zoom school lifestyle at the time. And then to get them to do a Zoom den meeting or pack meeting was very difficult to do. So, during that period, we lost well over half of our packs, which is really the feeding ground for all of Scouting. And honestly, we didn’t recover as many. I think our professionals did a great job supporting our program, and our volunteers did a great job working with what they had.
Do you have any favorite memories or moments during your time as Chief Scout Executive that you can reflect back on?
From my viewpoint, I see Scouting a couple of different ways. I see the fun things – the camping, the hiking, getting out to the high-adventure bases. Those are always exciting things to do. I also see Scouting as a business. It’s a business that has to be run on business principles, and I have to think about that every day. I think some of my most memorable times are being out in the program areas where there are a lot of youth. Jamboree – I don’t think it could have been better. We had a great team of volunteers and professionals behind the scenes on that. I spent seven days at the Jamboree, and I didn’t have one person – youth or adult – come up to me and say, “You know, you guys really could have done a better job.” Everybody came up and said, “This is great. This is the best time I’ve ever had in Scouting.” That’s probably one of my best memories.
Safety has always been a priority at the BSA. How do you feel about where we are when it comes to keeping kids safe?
I feel that the BSA has always emphasized safety. We’ve got an obligation to keep kids safe. I said that early on in my tenure at this position. If we fail at keeping kids safe, then what else can we do? That really is the No. 1 imperative. We’ve put a lot of new things in place since the bankruptcy that I think will really contribute to that, like, for instance, we now have a committee of survivors that’s going to advise the BSA on how to prevent child abuse in Scouting. I think going forward, you’ll see an emphasis not just on that, but how we do things, like hiking or aquatics or whatever the program activity is.
In 2020, you said to me, “I’m a ‘for every door that’s closed, there’s another door that’s open’ kind of a guy.” What kind of doors does this step in your life open for you?
People have been asking me what it is I plan to do. I think Scouting will always be a part of my life. I may take a month or two months off. I would hope to be able to assist the new CEO in any way I can. And then I suspect I’ll try to find another volunteer position some place, if I can find somebody who would have me as a volunteer. Scouting will continue for me.
You were a Scouting volunteer long before you came to this office to work for the BSA. It’s kind of hard to give that up, isn’t it?
It is. It kind of gets into your blood, frankly. For a lot of long-term volunteers, Scouting becomes as much of a passion as anything else. You get to the point that you can’t see your life going forward without having something to do with Scouting. I’ve gotten very interested in international Scouting. I might dip my toes into those waters. Scouting will be there someplace.
Why does Scouting stick with people like that, do you think?
As Baden-Powell was once quoted as saying when asked why Scouting was necessary, he said the whole purpose of Scouting was to prepare young people for the adult world. I think also there’s a little more to it than that. Scouting is a youth program, but to some extent, Scouting offers adults the opportunity to escape the adult world. It’s something different than what you have to do every day. It gives us a chance recapture our childhoods, and I think that’s why it’s appealing to a lot of people, including me.
Another thing you told me back in 2020 is that when you were thinking about taking this job, you said “I can’t commit to something like that until I talk to my wife.” What are your wife’s thoughts now that you’re about to retire?
Gwen and I saw this as a journey. When I was asked to do the job, I probably thought there was a bigger chance that she would say this isn’t something I need to do. But she said “I think you need to do it. I’m not exactly sure why. But this is something you need to do. This is a place in time … maybe a little bit serendipitous, where you need to take this position.” She’s walked with me over these last four years. I couldn’t have done it without her. I needed her support to get it done.
Scouting has been around for more than 100 years. We certainly hope it continues to be around for another 100 years. What does Scouting need to do to remain relevant?
Scouting is very slow to change. That’s both an attribute and a criticism. Scouting has become an institution in the United States and many places in the world. It’s an iconic organization. Despite the problems we’ve had that forced us into bankruptcy, the values of the Scout Oath and Law are very important. The challenge going forward is how do we keep it relevant for parents — so they’ll want to get their kids involved — and of course for the kids. If it’s not relevant to kids, they aren’t going to want to stay in the program. We’ve got to keep it relevant without taking the Scout Oath and Law out of it. And really, we’re doing that all the time. A good example is the new Cub Scout updates. I think that’s an update that will make it a lot more interesting to the young people involved. And I think it will make it a lot more relevant for parents who are looking for a place to put their children where they can gain some values, morals and a strong sense of ethics.
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