Re: In Defense of Commissioners
Thu, 4 Aug 1994 10:11:12 EDT
On Wed, 3 Aug 1994 10:04:06 -0400 Wendy Theriault
> One of the ongoing problems that commissioners have is fighting
> the image of the good ol' boy standing in the back of the meeting
> room in his red jacket and drinking coffee.
Hey, I resemble that remark! :) Seriously - I spend most of my coffee-
drinking time visiting my units at camporees, where the coffee flows freely
and the leaders are most relaxed. It's amasing what you'll hear at a
during a visit, while at the same time the kids are participating in their
> True, there are still some of those left as well as the meddlers and
> the invisible commissioners.
I have found that meddling is in the eye of the beholder. In my experience,
the leader who feels that the commissioner is a meddler, or worse yet, a
spy for the district, is either going through paranoid delusions or he/she
really has something to hide, in the form of substantial deviations from the
program, or both.
I don't always show up to meetings on a regular basis, but I do get in touch
with the leaders of my units, to see how things are going. Most of my unit
committees meet on nights when I have other conflicts (yes, I do have a life
outside of scouting), so the committees may not know I exist - but the top
leaders do, and THEY are the ones who affect the unit operations most
>What's needed here, just as in any other adult position in scouting, is
> screening before recruitment and immediate and continual training. The
> district must also be committed to quality service to units, not just
> filling up a roster with names.
I would agree with you, Wendy, because most of the districts with which I
been personally involved have been interested in quality service. I have
been in districts which consisted of those same good ole boys (God love them
all) who wish to maintain the status quo - them on top, keep the numbers, and
to h*** with the program.
I got into a long discussion with our council's Field Director (who was
our DE) regarding the demise of an existing troop. He wanted to keep it
although it met one block down from, and on the same night as, a more viable
unit (BTW it was one of my units). It had five on the charter, but only one
stayed in - the other four succumbed to peer pressure. He did not want to
the plug on the unit, although the top leader did not want to do anything
We have since been assigned a new DE (Xfer from another district), and I
reorganizing the troop. He said "why bother - it was an ineffective unit
I guess that even some professionals can be willing to sacrifice unit
for quality - but is was a real surprise to me.
>A truly good commissioner will honestly be a friend to the units they
>..not a spy, not an enforcer...but a valued resource and cheerleader for the
I spend more time being a cheerleader than anything else - the leaders seem
to ask for information or assistance from their commissioners - maybe it's a
they have unwittingly been doing something wrong, and don't want to be caught
Some of the good points - newer leaders want the info I can provide (or get
them if I don't know for sure), and it feels good to help. I have sat in on
Eagle Boards to help the leader prepare the boys for that interview. I have
to courts of honor and cheered the boys on in their advancements. These are
things that make commissioner service worthwhile.
On the other hand, I have been through crisis management (one of these days
rehash my own non-hypothetical situation for the readers) and sometimes
even been successful in resolving the situation. But - no matter what
directed guidance, or whatever, I give to the units, the buck stops at the
leadership for determining whether the advice will be heeded. This is
the hardest point to get across: it is your boys' unit - what are *you*, not
what am *I*,
going to do about it: that hard decision is *yours*. What do *you* think the
is? I will not let you pass that buck to me!
This is, IMHBCO, the hardest lesson for a new commissioner to learn - that
is not there to ride herd, nor to allow the adults to abdicate their
to their units, but to be there as an advisor and mediator whenever the need
> Wendy Theriault
> Unit Commissioner, Arrowhead District
> Daniel Webster Council N.H.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City