Era ending for Maui’s Boy Scouts

Merger ushers dawn of unified Hawaii group

ELLEN LOUCKS – Looking forward to Aloha Council support

WAILUKU — Maui’s Boy Scouts of America council voted unanimously Monday night to merge with the regional Oahu-based Aloha Council, signaling an end to nearly a century of independence and hailing the start of a unified Hawaii program.

Set to celebrate 100 years of Scouting next year as the only separate council in the state, Maui County voted 18-0 at a Wailuku meeting to join the Aloha Council, which currently oversees 10,500 Scouts on Oahu, Big Island, Kauai, Guam and American Samoa.

“I was pleasantly surprised by that,” Jeff Sulzbach, Aloha Council Scout executive/chief executive officer, said Tuesday. “We recognized the long history of Scouting on Maui, the pride and the ownership that goes with that, so we were pleased that they did support the merger unanimously.”

Commissioner Ellen Loucks, a 17-year local BSA veteran who leads Maui County Council’s volunteers, said she is thankful for the backing that Aloha will provide amid leaner times for Maui’s organization.

“I’m actually looking forward to having the support that Aloha Council can offer us that all of our volunteers are trying to do on their own,” she said Tuesday.

JEFF SULZBACH – Able to recruit with “one voice”

The Aloha Council will likely approve the merger during its April 16 meeting, Sulzbach said Tuesday.

Pending approval, Maui County Council would be renamed Maui County District of the Aloha Council, roles will be restructured, new Scout fees put in place and back-end support offered starting May 1.

Despite recent Maui concerns about representation and finances, the vote reflects a joint decision to keep the Valley Isle organization afloat, Loucks said.

“Some are used to us being independent over the years,” she said. “But in the long run, given that our membership will fall off due to the membership transition, we wouldn’t be big enough to be a council next year. It is hard, but it’s just a reality.”

The decision parallels a shift among smaller councils in western states that are bracing for the impact of the impending departure of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Scouts, who have bolstered membership and funding since BSA’s start a century ago.

Loucks said Maui is not unique in seeking to merge with a larger council. Three to four other councils in the national program’s western region are undergoing similar transitions, she said, citing a national director.

After Dec. 31, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will have its own, church-specific youth development program, although individual Scouts may remain in BSA’s program. The move impacts membership nationwide, but especially in western states, where Mormon membership is substantial.

Maui has 853 Scouts this year, and the county will lose 341 Mormon Scouts at the end of the year, officials said, which is roughly 40 percent of membership.

While Maui’s council is scheduled to lose many Mormon Scouts, it would gain administrative infrastructure, marketing support and other help from the Aloha Council.

Currently, Maui County has two full-time employees — a camp manager and an office manager. Both would be kept, according to Ellise Fujii, Aloha Council’s director of development and marketing. Also, a full-time district executive on Maui would be hired.

“We are eager to begin sourcing candidates (for Maui district executive),” Sulzbach said. “We would love to find someone from Maui who lives on the island. Packs and troops really need the support, and we’d like to fill the position as soon as possible.”

With the merger, the redundant Maui County Scout executive/chief executive officer role would be discontinued.

Duc Button, who served in the position since 2017, said his last day with the local council was Jan. 31 and that he moved to Washington state recently. Since then, BSA national office-based Richard McCartney has been serving as interim Scout CEO for Maui.

“I am personally excited about the possibilities that this merger will offer to the families in Maui County in terms of quality, program growth and volunteer support,” McCartney said via email Tuesday. “I believe that it will allow for a better, more focused allocation of resources, that will positively affect young people in the years come. And, it will allow the BSA to continue the wonderful tradition of Scouting in Maui County for another 100 years.”

Maui County membership on the Aloha Council governing board is yet to be determined, and there is “no limit” to potential representation, Sulzbach said. A nominating committee would decide appropriate board positions and help select individuals. Currently, the board has 49 members, with four from the Big Island, he said.

With the merger, Scout dues would coincide with Aloha Council fees, which are $48 per year ($33 to the national organization and $15 to the district). Maui’s current dues are $34 per year ($33 to the national organization and $1 to supplemental accident insurance).

Sulzbach said Scout membership typically runs on an annual, calendar-year basis, and active Maui Scouts would not be impacted until Jan. 1, 2020. If the merger is approved in April, it would go into effect May 1, and anyone joining after that would pay a prorated Aloha Council fee for the year, he said.

Despite nationwide trends that show dwindling Scout numbers, Sulzbach said Aloha Council’s membership has been growing slightly in the last four to five years.

Maui’s membership has stayed static for decades, Loucks said.

Loucks said the local organization wouldn’t see much change with the transition, since local councils are overseen by a nationally run program and are driven by volunteers.

She added that marketing will improve, since it’s not easy to market “Hawaii Scouting, but without Maui.”

Sulzbach said he is excited for the new chapter of a unified Hawaii for BSA.

“I’m excited to have a statewide Scouting presence,” he said. “To have one voice to recruit everyone to Scouting and let them know what a great opportunity it is to be a Scout today is invaluable.”

Maui County Council President Brian Kakihara, who served the council for 20 years, declined to comment Tuesday and deferred questions to Oahu’s office.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.