Michael Deming will retire as a Texas Trails Council Boy Scout senior district executive Friday — for the second time — but he knows the Scouting program in this area will continue to be good hands.
“It’s not the full-time paid professionals who drive this program, but the volunteers and their supporters,” Deming said last week. “The professionals are there to help the Scoutmasters nudge the volunteers a little if they need it and to offer some expert advice.”
It’s the second time Deming has retired early from the Scouting profession. After working as an executive for 10 years, he left to enter private business and the real estate industry. Seven years later, he returned to Scouting after serving as a Scout volunteer in Corpus Christi and a professional position opened. He has devoted 14 years to the job in his second term, the last three years and three months in Brownwood.
Even though the break in his Scouting career cost him some retirement income because he took the proceeds with him, Deming said being a volunteer was beneficial to how he does the job.
“I kind of got to see how things work on both sides,” Deming said.
Since it is early retirement, Deming said he expects he will find other work. For now, he plans to remain in Brownwood, but he will be open to opportunities that require relocation.
“I don’t think I’ll ever retire, like riding off into the sunset,” Deming said. “For example, (former Brownwood Scout executive) Frank Hilton is busier now than he ever has been.”
“I’ll miss a lot of things,” Deming said about leaving the Scouting position. “The main thing is the kids in the program. They have a lot of fun, especially the Cub Scouts. I’ll miss it when they win recognition and awards. They’re all smiles. I’ll miss watching the kids grow and mature in the program.”
Deming said he has also enjoyed the unpredictable work schedule the Scouting job involves.
“It’s not 8 to 5 at all,” he said. “You have to meet when the adult leaders can meet, and usually that’s at night or on weekends. I’ll have to do some adjusting if whatever I do requires typical hours.”
Deming said he also has enjoyed Scouting because it allows him to work with families from all levels of economic stature in the community. But it’s not been without its challenges.
“Boy Scout ideals are the same now as they were in 1910,” Deming said, “but some changes have been made to adapt to the needs of society.” One example is the Learning for Life program that works through schools to provide age-appropriate character curriculum.
“The schools are too often finding themselves not just teaching lessons, but also being forced to teach right from wrong,” Deming said.
But the biggest change he’s seen since he started professional Scouting has been on the demands families have on their time.
“So many parents want to put their child in everything,” Deming said. “A child doesn’t seem to have the time to grow up any more.”
Through the years, Deming said the Scouting program looks at its programs, develops new ones, studies how they work, introduces the new and deletes the ones that are no longer needed.
“As with all organizations, the challenge of finding volunteers is always there,” Deming said. “It’s important that we do it. When we volunteer we help our community, or our church or wherever we volunteer.”
The Scouting program also benefits the adults who are involved.
“I can say that Scouting has changed me,” Deming said. “As an executive, it forced me to be more extroverted, to learn how to talk to people. Scouting gives adult volunteers recognition. Sometimes, the Scout leaders are not the decision-makers in their businesses, but it gives them responsibility and confidence.”
Deming told a story of a volunteer who had prompted concerns from those who knew him because of his inability to lead others and to speak in public. His first efforts were awkward, but within a year he had developed into a respected Scout leader.
Fund-raising is also a task always with non-profits, Deming said.
“We’re dependent on the goodwill of others to keep our programs going,” he said. “Selling character development is like selling any abstract idea. You may not see an immediate result, but what Scouts learn will last a lifetime.”
Parents encourage their children to enter Scouting for various reasons.
“Most understand what Scouting is all about, but others are just looking to have a place for them to go,” Deming said. “But it’s a pretty good investment. Scouting’s not expensive, but there’s a perception that it is. It’s just $10 a year with another dollar for insurance. The fee hasn’t been raised in years.”
Leaving the job now means Deming won’t be part of Boy Scouting’s centennial in 2010.
“They’ve already got some things in the works,” Deming said. “It’s going to be a big celebration.”
Deming said he’s not certain about what the Texas Trails Council might do concerning a replacement, but in the meantime, contacts will be Dale Nix, Kickapoo district chairman in Brownwood, or the council’s Abilene headquarters office.
Deming’s Kickapoo District includes the counties of Brown, Lampasas, Mills and San Saba. The council covers Brown, Callahan, Coleman, Comanche, Eastland, Erath, Fisher, Haskell, Jones, Lampasas, Mills, Nolan, North Runnels, San Saba, Shackelford, Stephens, Stonewall and Taylor counties.
“Fall is the big recruiting time, so we hope a lot of Scouts will come out,” Deming said. “We know from statistics that of every 100 boys who join Scouting, four will save a life at sometime because of what they learned, and two will manage to save their own lives. The majority of astronauts are former Scouts, and there’s a strong representation of Scouts in the military academies.
“Scouting is tops in citizenship training, character development and teaching self-esteem and responsibility. You just don’t get that type of thing much any more.”