What does a unit commissioner, district commissioner and district executive do?

scoutcast-logo1That nice, uniformed, young man who visited your troop last week, was he your unit commissioner, district commissioner, district executive or someone else entirely?

For new adult volunteers, keeping track of your own Scouting title and responsibilities can feel pretty overwhelming. Memorizing the positions and duties of everyone else in your Scouting circle? Forget about it.

The good news, then, is that ScoutCast has help.

In the October 2013 episode of the monthly podcast (available to stream through your browser or download for later listening), you’ll hear from Ed Martin, scout executive for the Black Warrior Council in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as he explains who’s who in this “zoo” we call Scouting.

You’ll learn who these volunteers and professionals are and, more importantly, how they can help make your job in Scouting easier and more rewarding.

28 thoughts on “What does a unit commissioner, district commissioner and district executive do?

  1. I was a Scoutmaster for over 14 years and during my tenure, I asked many times what a unit commissioner was supposed to do and/or how could he help the troop? I never received a satisfactory answer. When I first took the job our unit commissioner used to visit about every 6-8 weeks to see how things were going. During that time, he really didn’t do much beyond a brief inquiry. Then he took over as Scoutmaster of a troop and we never had an effective commissioner for the last 9-10 years of my tenure. Our district and council has been making an effort to recruit and train unit commissioners but I still have no idea of what useful function they are to perform,

    • The unit commissioner is a lifesaver for Pack and Troop in the District. If you need help recruit new member for your unit UC there to help. Any ideas needed for keep your unit afloat UC can help out. Most Leader don’t show up at Roundtable Meeting. Being Commissioner for long time and ready to help out anytime.

    • I’m with you, Ned. Still trying to figure out even who our UC is. I haven’t seen one in about a year and a half. Since becoming Scoutmaster 15 years ago, I think I have seen someone who is our UC maybe 10 times total during those 15 years.

  2. It is a lot like any other scouting position. You don’t know what it is all about until you are one. Since you are a seasoned scouter you might be a great candidate for a Unit Commissioner in your District. Why not try it out?

    • Well for one thing, since stepping down from the Scoutmaster position, I’ve taken over as membership coordinator for our troop and am also on our district committee – advancement sub-committee, and a new member of our district Eagle review board. I don’t have time to take on a job that I don’t believe is useful and one for which I have never been able to get a clear description of the job’s responsibilities. At least in my part of the woods, unit commissioners seem to be irrelevant and about as useful as an inflamed appendix in addition to wasting a good volunteer on a useless task. From several other discussion groups, I understand that this is not always the case but I haven’t yet seen an effective unit commissioner in my over 18 years as a registered Scout leader in our district/council.

      • I guess we are lucky in my District as we have about 20 Commissioners. Each one has 1-3 units (Troops, Packs, Crews) that they monitor. I became the Round Table Cubmaster last fall & joined the Cub Scout RT staff about 6 months before that. About 6 months before that, I did not even know we had a Pack Commissioner. When we had an issue with the old Cubmaster leaving abruptly, the Commissioner stepped attended the parent’s meeting we had and after listening to the discussion, commonly gave us some options. The Commissioner did not resolve our Cubmaster or any of the other issues we were having, but guided us to resolving the issues by the Pack Members. His fresh eyes from an outsider allowed us to look at the issues from a different perspective. For the next year, the Commissioner came to almost every Pack Meeting, Committee Meeting, & even visited us on our activities. Now that the Pack seems to be back on track, he visits that Pack (I have since moved on to a Troop) less frequently.

        About 6 months after meeting our Unit Commissioner, I noticed the Cub Scout RT Commissioner (I had been going almost for 2 years, but just sitting back) setting up tables & doing almost everything. I asked him what I could do to help . . . and now I am doing the program planning for 9-10 RTs a year. The other RTs are usually involve something directed from above that someone else presents so it gives me a break.

        While all Commissioners might not be great, we have some good ones in our District.

        • @Daniel: If you were suggesting that I take the online commissioner training, I have already done so. Also already attended our Commissioner College. Didn’t go last year as it conflicted with our District Merit Badge Forum. As a MBC, I figured that helping 20 Scouts was more important. Hopefully in 2014, there will not be a conflict so I can take my next Commissioner class.

  3. Experienced Scouters make great commissioners but I would caution against over-burdening a Scoutmaster. Scoutmaster is a position that should have no other “hats” to wear. A great commissioner will be a valuable resource for the units they serve. A commissioners’ job is not to solve problems for a unit but to help the unit solve problems on their own. They will also know who on the district committee can help with issues that require outside assistance. The bottom line is that a commissioner should make a unit leaders job easier.

  4. Having served at in both cub scout and boy scout positions, including scoutmaster. I did move up to unit commissioner and eventually Assistant District Commissioner. My previous scouting experience was/is very helpful in my aiding units with problems and solutions. As I helped units I also learned different problems and solutions. I have found that most problems are unique to that unit. I guess you can say, I’m always learning. Even the District Commissioner needs help sometimes. There is no ultimate answer. But a good unit commissioner has to be a good listener and be available. I have since, moved to being the district advancement chair and even now I offer my experience to the younger commissioners.

  5. for a long time our UC never came to visit, I finally asked him at roundtable why we never saw him, his response was that we were delivering the promise, our unit was stable and growing and that he had other units that needed his help. So we went our way and he and I would talk at roundtable.

  6. We are lucky when it comes to our UC, he used to be the Cubmaster of our Pack. So he has an emotional tie to Pack 602! He’s a part of our Scouting Family and the first person I call when I have a question or concern. I call him our “Personal Pit-bull”.

  7. So a good UC has to …

    Know when to hold ’em.
    Know when to fold ’em.
    Know when to walk away when the dealing’s done?

  8. When I was asked to step in due to the sudden death of a Scoutmaster, I found my UC so helpful in learning so many ropes. I had been out of Scouting for 3 years and MUCH had change in those 3 years onto of the fact that I had to learn a new role, being a Scoutmaster.

  9. I cannot find this on iTunes. I can find CubCast. The only way to download it is from the website. Can you please get this into iTunes. It is how I listen to all my Podcasts.


  10. I am wondering why the guy in uniform at the top of this posting is wearing his nametag over the wrong pocket? Some example for an adult to set.

  11. Paul, better check the handbook again. The name tag goes over the BSA Strip which is on the Right pocket. Check before you comment.

    • I think that’s Paul’s point. In the picture, the name tag is over the right pocket, probably compensating for the five rows of knots that the fella left in his drawer at hom.

    • I know a nametag goes over the BSA strip. I am not as stupid as you apparently think I am! You missed the point.

      • Let’s not forget the Scout Law while posting, especially the 4th, 5th & 6th points. Yes, the name tag goes over the wearer’s own right pocket or the left when one is looking at the individual. The Scouter in the photo does have his nametag on the wrong side. At least the nametag is straight. I have seen several Scouters that evidently put on their name tag after they put on their shirt & it is at a 30 to 45 degree angle. That is probably a worse offense than forgetting on what side the nametag goes.

  12. Only had one unit commissioner in my 8 years in scouting…

    I was CM and he came in identified himself and insisted on doing a uniform inspection. Which resulted in crying cubs and mad parents……Haven’t seen one since.

    • I know 20 commissioners in my district alone & not a single one of them have ever conducted a uniform inspection.

      I, on the other hand as a Den Leader & Assistant Cubmaster, helped conduct uniform inspections for every Pack meeting for about 5 years. Never had 1 crying Cub Scout or irate parent. I would gently tell the Scout that he needed to button his pockets, tuck in his shirt, etc. I would help the Tigers & Wolves do their neckerhief right. If the Scout had lost his neckerchief slide, I would tie the neckerchief with a friendship knot & tell the parent the tricks to not lose another slide.

      Not my policy, but the Pack’s: After “passing” the inspection, each Scout received a raffle ticket. One den’s scouts each month brought 2-3 baggies (3-4 cookies in each) that they were suppose to help their parents make to complete one of the requirements for their rank or elective that we would raffle off at the end of the night. After the flag ceremony, I don’t think I ever saw a Cub Scout leave before the last number was drawn for the last of the cookies.

  13. My Fault! I didn’t scroll to the “top of the posting” and see the Scouter with the name tag on the wrong side and on the pocket flap. I was looking at “scoutadam”, 2 posts above mine and he is correct. “Lighten up” people! I propose we “KEEL HAUL HIM”, the “old scouter at the top of the post”, for the infraction.

  14. As the newest UC here (two days), allow me an opinion and a question. To those who haven’t seen their UC, perhaps it’s because (a) your unit is healthy or (b) there aren’t enough volunteers to go around. Is your unit committee doing anything to encourage parents in that direction?

    My simple question is, how do I order a BSA nametag? I promise I’ll use the correct pocket….

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