During Act 2 of Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton jokes that Vice President John Adams “doesn’t have a real job anyway.” The same could be said for Keri Snyder’s predecessor as Pack 455’s committee chair. When Snyder took over the role for the Lakeland, Tenn., pack, other leaders joked that she would just be sitting around and signing paperwork while someone else — namely the amazing Cubmaster — did all the work.
“When I assumed that role as he was transitioning out, I learned that there was a lot more to the position than anyone seemed to fully grasp,” she says. “As den leaders, they just assumed things magically got done some way, somehow.”
Once Snyder figured out what she was supposed to be doing, she began recruiting parents for key committee roles like treasurer and building teams to plan big events like the Pinewood Derby. Now that she and her husband, Cubmaster Charles Snyder, are transitioning to a Scouts BSA troop, she is handing over the reins to a new committee chair, someone who knows the job involves far more than just sitting around and signing paperwork.
So what exactly should a pack committee chair be doing? For the inside scoop, Scouting talked with Snyder and two other veterans, Brian Colton of Sloatsburg, N.Y., and Jeff Hunter of Fairfax, Va. Here’s what they told us.
Divide and Conquer
New leaders are sometimes confused about how the Cubmaster and committee chair divvy up responsibilities. According to Colton, who is committee chair for Pack 2146 in Sloatsburg and Tuxedo and for three (!) Scouts BSA troops, the division of labor is pretty simple: “The Cubmaster, assistant Cubmaster and den leaders are program; the committee chair and committee members are support of program,” he says. “My role as committee chair is to provide all the support, whether it’s training, certainly the finance end, and the recruitment end to some degree.”
Hunter, the former committee chair for Pack 91 in Gainesville, Va. (and now a Scouts BSA leader), agrees.
“Your job is to make the committee an effective support system for the program, not to create program — that’s the Cubmaster’s job,” he says. “Make sure the rest of the committee knows this as well.”
Get to Know the Players
Once everybody understands who should be doing what, it becomes easier to steer parents toward the right roles. Does that mom geek out over spreadsheets? Ask her to run the popcorn sale. Does that dad prefer camping over committee meetings? He ought to be a den leader.
To help parents find the right place to serve, you have to get to know them.
“I just go around and meet all the parents and have short conversations with them,” Colton says. “I’m sort of sussing them out for how they can help the pack, how can they help me.”
Take a Long View
It’s pretty easy to chat up parents when you aren’t responsible for corralling a few dozen squirmy Cub Scouts every week. (Remember, that’s the job of the Cubmaster and den leaders.) It’s also pretty easy to look past the urgency of planning den and pack meetings when that isn’t your responsibility.
Hunter thinks one of the committee chair’s most important tasks is succession planning.
“When that awesome popcorn kernel will leave the pack in a couple of years because their youngest is crossing over, start getting their replacement warmed up by having a couple of people shadowing them, getting a brain dump, being their assistant, etc.,” he says. “This way, you’ll also get a feel for how good of a job they’ll do so you can make an adjustment if it appears they’ll be a disaster.”
Succession planning has been Snyder’s top priority this year. As part of her Wood Badge ticket, she created a detailed transition plan for her position, and she began talking with a potential successor, Laurie Raffety, in January. Raffety came on board in August and will be shadowing Snyder through the spring. Even better, Snyder still has a son in the pack, so she’ll be around for Raffety’s first year on the job.
“That’s the nice thing. I will have another year in the pack that I’m there as a resource,” Snyder says.
Be a Resource
Being a resource might just be the committee chair’s most important task, according to Colton. He has worked with several Cubmasters during his tenure, each of whom brought different strengths and weaknesses to the position and each of whom needed different levels of support.
“It’s almost like being a commissioner,” he says. “It’s almost like providing that support: ‘I’m your friend, and I’m going to help you.’”
And with you on their side, there’s nothing your Cubmaster can’t accomplish.
For more information on this topic, go to the BSA Learning Center, available with a free account at my.scouting.org.