After more than three decades as a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) professional, Jeff Doty is retiring from the organization and leaving his Quad Cities post as scout executive and CEO of the Illowa BSA Council.
Mr. Doty, 58, will step down on Tuesday, Jan. 31, after having served the BSA in seven councils, 10 positions and five states across the country. He has worked for the BSA in Missouri, Indiana, in Peoria and Belleville, Illinois, and West Virginia. His last stop was the Davenport-based Illowa Council.
But despite his scout retirement, Mr. Doty told the QCBJ that he is not hanging up his BSA uniform. “The good thing is, I did turn in my adult leader application to the Greater St. Louis Council and am transferring my BSA membership to the River Trails District in the Greater St. Louis Council on Feb. 1.”
He and his wife Jill will be relocating from Davenport “back home” to Jefferson County, Missouri, where he hopes to become a scout volunteer.
However, his retirement also will be short-lived. He has accepted a new job as donor relations manager at Pony Bird, Inc., a nonprofit in Jefferson County, which supports individuals with disabilities by providing services, programming and residential living facilities.
“My mom retired from a special school district in St. Louis County, where she worked with disabled children,” he said of his late mother. “One of the organizations they supported was Pony Bird. It was neat for her because a lot of her former students became residents (at Pony Bird) as adults with disabilities.”
Hired by the BSA Illowa Council in August 2018, Mr. Doty has been at the helm during what have been some trying times in scouting nationwide.
“Jeff led Illowa Council through one of the most difficult periods in scouting history. Between COVID-19 and the (national BSA) bankruptcy, we faced unprecedented challenges,” Ted Olt III, the council’s immediate past president, told the QCBJ. “Despite the challenges, the future of Illowa Council looks bright with a strong group of volunteer leaders, a great program and great facilities in Camp Loud Thunder.”
Recalling the impact of COVID-19, Mr. Doty said “When it first hit, we had to stop all meetings for a while.” Individual troops and the council itself became proficient at Zoom meetings as well as identifying alternative ways to gather – mostly through outdoor activities. The council offered online Merit Badge Mondays to keep youth engaged.
He remembers the council’s concerns about re-emerging from the pandemic. “Plus we were dealing with Iowa and Illinois and had so many different rules.”
The shutdown also impacted the council’s recruitment efforts and its financial picture as it had to close Loud Thunder Scout Reservation in rural Rock Island County for the 2020 season, and reopen to limited numbers of campers in 2021.
Under his watch, the council applied for and received federal COVID-19 relief funding, but declining membership and a tightened budget forced staff reductions. “That really took the wind out of my sail,” he said of the decision to lay off four of his then 14 full-time employees.
Since then, he said, membership has seen massive growth in 2022 and over the past three years, an average of 60 scouts have earned their Eagle Scout award.
Mr. Doty is an Eagle Scout himself, a Vigil Honor Member of Order of the Arrow, and an active Rotarian. He is a graduate of Southeast Missouri State.
He is proud of how the local council emerged from the national bankruptcy with its facilities, including its camp, and endowment intact. “A lot of councils sold their camps or raided their endowment, which is something we said we wouldn’t do.” Illowa was forced to remortgage its service center/headquarters – which had been paid off – in order to pay its contribution toward the bankruptcy settlement.
According to Mr. Olt, who also is an attorney with Lane & Waterman, Davenport, the council already is seeking its next leader. “While Illowa Council will certainly miss Jeff’s leadership, the National Office of BSA has a process in place to help local councils identify and hire a new scout executive.”
“We already have a committee in place, working with our National Service Territory (NST) scout executive, to identify and hire our next scout executive from a pool of qualified candidates around the USA,” he said, adding the council hopes to have its next executive hired and in place by early April.
In the interim, the NST scout executive is working with Illowa Council Assistant Scout Executive Zach Beuthien to continue the council’s operations and serve scouts, Mr. Olt said.
“I’m pleased to be getting closer to home,” Mr. Doty said of the couple’s impending move to Jefferson County. “All our family lives in St. Louis. It just seemed like the right time (to leave) with the BSA getting ready to get out of bankruptcy.”
“The council is about to start a capital campaign and do strategic planning,” he said, adding it made sense “if I’m not going to be there for the whole thing” to leave it to the next council executive.
“This year, hopefully we think everything is back and we’re on track to have an almost normal year,” he said of the Illowa council. “Hopefully, things and plans are in place so they can keep the momentum going.”