Boy Scouts CEO Takes Confident Stand on Future

Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
Jeff Sulzbach’s grasp of the L.A. area’s complexities helped him land his job as CEO of the Greater Los Angeles Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said the group’s chairman.

La Cañada Flintridge resident Jeff Sulzbach, CEO of the Greater Los Angeles Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, is not running away from the topic of bankruptcy.
On Feb. 18, the national BSA announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a move that will allow it to reorganize its finances and create a fund to provide equitable compensation to victims of abuse that occurred while they were scouts.
“The main thing we want to make sure everybody knows is that this is a national issue,” said Sulzbach, who began in his post Nov. 1. “It affects the Boy Scouts of America nationally and their finances. The local council, which is called the Greater Los Angeles Area Council, has not filed for bankruptcy, is not filing for bankruptcy. We’re still financially sound and continue to operate our program here in this area.”
During a recent interview at his office in Pasadena, Sulzbach emphasized the Boy Scouts’ efforts to keep its youths safe.
“Since the late 1980s, Boy Scouts have had a very strong protection program where every leader in our program is expected to go through training about what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate with kids,” Sulzbach said. “One thing we say is as a leader you’re never allowed to be alone with a child. We have mandatory training, we do mandatory background checks on all of our volunteers and we have mandatory reporting of anything that would be inappropriate … any inappropriate behavior, not just sexual abuse.
“So I think the safeguards are much different today and it reflects the society we live in today. There’s much more heightened awareness of this.”
John Johnson, who is on the Greater L.A. Area Council’s board of directors and interviewed Sulzbach during the hiring process, said the CEO’s leadership abilities made him a good candidate for the position.
“These are both tremendously important and trying times,” Johnson said. “We are faced with a national lawsuit and broadly negative trends about volunteerism and values. … Jeff, in conjunction with the current board of directors, can make practical decisions, bring our thousands of local members and volunteers together and begin the building process with our dramatically more diverse membership, including young women in scouting.”
Sulzbach said he is excited about the addition of women to all of its ranks, which occurred in February 2019 with the launch of the Scouts BSA program.
“We have an opportunity to grow not only with the boys we served over 110 years now, but also with the serving of girls in all of our programs,” Sulzbach said. “We expect probably within 12 months we’ll have our first girl become an Eagle Scout.”
Since the change, he has seen families of both boys and girls being able to scout together and has observed that the girls who have joined are very goal orientated.
“It’s a real leveling opportunity for girls to have the same opportunities that boys have in the program,” Sulzbach said. “I’m just really proud of that.”
Sulzbach, who likes to tell people he has been wearing a scout uniform since age 8, credits scouting with helping him build self-confidence.
“As I related to my own experience as a camp counselor in front of hundreds of people singing a song or doing a skit or just talking to them, that’s something that not everyone gets to do,” said Sulzbach, who grew up near St. Paul, Minnesota. “So I think building self-confidence is a big thing. For me, I developed a ton of leadership skills and continue to develop leadership skills as a leader in scouting.”
Sulzbach said he is proud to be in LCF, where he resides with his wife, Patty, and their two children, 3rd-graders at La Cañada Elementary School.
“For us, we really were looking for a great family community, looking for great schools, and we wanted good access to downtown L.A. and to Pasadena, where I have offices,” Sulzbach said. “And La Cañada hit the bull’s-eye.”
Before Sulzbach and his family moved to LCF, he was a scout executive/CEO for the Boy Scouts of America Aloha Council in Honolulu. Ellise Fujii, director of development and marketing for that council, said he was instrumental in helping their organization secure “impactful” financial gifts and connect with donors.
“Jeff is warm and approachable, and has a sterling reputation as a man of character and integrity,” Fujii said in an email. “He is a great listener and someone who genuinely cares about others. He also has a great sense of humor.”
Tim Greenleaf, president and board chairman for the Greater Los Angeles Area Council, added that Sulzbach stood out in his interview for the local position because of his communication skills, likeability and grasp of the L.A. area’s complexities.
The Greater L.A. group “is one of the 10 largest councils in BSA,” Greenleaf said. “It is the most ethnically, socially and financially diverse of all the councils, and 60% or more of the kids we serve are at or below the poverty line. In L.A., there is no single solution to anything; everything has to be crafted to meet the needs of the communities we serve.
“Jeff came from a very ethnically diverse council” in Hawaii, “so he understands the differing needs of the communities. His success in large measure will come from his skills at melding the needs of those communities with the abilities of our staff and large volunteer base.”
Sulzbach said that in his current role he spends his time meeting with people involved in business, community organizations, schools and churches.
“I’m the face of the organization from a professional standpoint,” Sulzbach said. “I interface with the board of directors and volunteers. We refer to volunteers as really our secret sauce. We could not run the program and the level of program we have today without volunteers. So I spend a lot of my time engaging those volunteers and helping to support them, to encourage them and to find new ones.”
He said he’s still meeting new people almost every day in his role, which is part of what he loves about it.
“In our scouting program, in addition to the 21,000 young people we serve, there’s over 8,000 volunteers who support the program,” Sulzbach said. “And that’s everybody from the den leaders at the Cub Scout pack level up to the scoutmasters. Our board of directors and merit badge counselors. So there’s a lot of people involved in the program … a lot whom I have not met.”

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