Going back to his roots
As Jim Dean returns to his home state, he has a lot of work to do.
Dean spent most of his life in the south, working for lumber companies and later the Arkansas Forestry Commission. Now he’s come home to administer an organization which shaped who he is today, the Boy Scouts of America.
Dean became Senior District Executive for the Twin Lakes District, which covers six counties including Webster, in November 2012.
This Boy Scouts district has been difficult to run because of a lack of workers, Dean said.
“I have no staff,” said Dean. “It takes a minimum of 25-30 people in place, structurally, volunteer-wise, to make things even begin to run smooth. I only had seven when I came here. For all practical purposes, it’s a total rebuild.”
The basic requirements of his job are straightforward. Dean said he must raise money for the territory, increase the number of Scouting youths and increase the number of Scout “units” – Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops and the coed Venture Crews – and do all these things consistently.
There are 23 units in the district, he said.
“Some are brand new. Some of them just got resurrected after falling through the cracks.”
The Manson and Gowrie Cub Scout packs have just been re-started, he said.
On top of all this, he has to look among the parents and other volunteers to find people he can appoint to important positions.
“I need a district chairman, and a district commissioner,” Dean said. “That chairman has to be a well-connected, influential businessman or businesswoman, that is familiar with and very knowledgeable about this district.”
The district commissioner must keep track of the unit commissioners, who monitor each unit in the area to make sure things are going well for them.
Then he needs an activities chair, since Scouting is supposed to be fun, after all, and a safety chair, since Scouting activities often include climbing walls, BB guns, bows and arrow.
Dean is the fourth person in only five years to take on this job.
“This particular assignment is probably, bar none, the toughest I’ve ever had,” he said.
Still, he knew what he was getting into.
Dean spent nine years working with the Quapaw Area Council of Boy Scouts in northern Arkansas. There, he faced similar challenges, but was able to meet all his goals in the first year.
His Scouting experience started when he was very young.
“Everybody was doing it. My brother was a Scout. I just took to it,” he said. “I enjoyed the program. I enjoyed going to the meetings. I enjoyed the learning experience. … I can tell you that Scouting changed my life in a very significant way.”
To fulfill the requirements to become an Eagle Scout, Dean had to stick to a strict exercise regimen, which he said helped him all throughout his life.
Plus, he’s seen how the Scouting program can train young men to succeed and teach leadership skills.
Dean recalled a bear attack he’d seen while camping at Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico. Dean was in his tent with one Boy Scout crew, when a second crew camping only 150 yards from Dean’s was attacked by a bear.
Two boys were injured, one badly, when the bear ripped its way into a tent and mauled the boy. The other Scouts and Scout leaders reacted quickly to defend the troop. They succeeded in getting the hurt boys away from the bear, drove the animal away, and sent two Scouts running on foot three miles back to the nearest staff camp in the dark.
Thing would not have gone so well without a lot of work beforehand to get the proper people in place, said Dean.
“The reason that severely injured Scout is alive today is due to the training that the Scouts and their adult leaders receive from the Boy Scouts of America,” he said.
Dean has loved camping and mountains all his life. He graduated from Iowa State University with a forestry degree, the same degree his father held. He worked in various forestry positions, including several years as a salesman, a stint as a procurement manager for a mill.
But leaving the mountains behind for the flat midwest was a good move for him. Dean grew up in Cambridge and graduated in Huxley, less than two hours from Fort Dodge.
“Although I’ve lived in the Sun Belt South all my adult life,” he said, “I’d still rather dress for the cold.”