Anthony Berger, chief executive officer of the Chattahoochee Council of the Boy Scouts of America, has been promoted to Cub Scouting national director.
Berger, 45, has led the Columbus-based 15-county council for the past eight years. He is scheduled to start his new job Aug. 1 at the BSA’s headquarters in Irving, Texas.
As he and his family prepared to move, Berger told the Ledger-Enquirer in an interview Monday, “With my desire to work at a national level at one point in my career, we knew this could eventually come.”
Berger and his wife, Robin, live in Harris County with their two children, Joshua, 13, and Elizabeth, 10.
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“We’re looking at it as a new opportunity to get to know another community,” he said, “but it’s bittersweet because of the friendships and relationships we made here.”
Council president Rob McKenna told the Ledger-Enquirer that Berger “absolutely is going to be a very hard man to replace. He’s done a fabulous job, so it was inevitable that he would move on and up. It’s a great opportunity for him. As much as I hate losing him, I know he’s going to do a great job there. He’s very committed to Scouting.”
McKenna, an attorney with the Columbus law firm Page, Scrantom, Sprouse, Tucker & Ford, estimated the council could hire Berger’s successor by December. “That’s the best-case scenario,” he said. “The national Boy Scouts office will assist.”
Meanwhile, the council’s assistant scout executive, Philip Wright, will be the interim CEO, McKenna said. The council’s operating budget is $1.3 million.
Berger is leaving the council in a good position, McKenna said. “Somebody can step in and not have to worry everything’s going to go south,” he said.
The council hired Berger in April 2009 from Orlando, Fla., where he was director of support services and chief financial officer at the BSA’s Central Florida Council for three years. Under his leadership, the Chattahoochee Council has:
▪ Grown traditional membership (Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts) by 11 percent from 3,526 in 2013 to 3,914 in 2016. Including the Exploring and Learning for Life programs, the council’s overall membership grew in five of the past six years and now has approximately 5,000 members.
▪ Achieved the gold level in the BSA’s Journey to Excellence recognition program in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
▪ Increased combined unrestricted net assets from $7,314,708 in 2009 to $8,486,727 in 2016.
▪ Increased its Friends of Scouting campaign from $337,121 in 2009 to $528,000 in 2016.
▪ Raised $1.1 million to help buy a downtown Columbus office building from private investors for $1.2 million in 2011. The council moved its headquarters from a leased building on Schatulga Road in east Columbus to the prominent corner of First Avenue and 13th Street, generating $36,600 in annual rental income from two tenants, Bookkeeping Express and financial advisor Edward Jones.
▪ Made $655,000 in capital improvements to Camp Frank G. Lumpkin in LaGrange.
▪ Increased its Cub Scout Family Camp attendance from 724 in 2009 to 2,435 in 2016.
▪ Increased its Boy Scout Resident Camp attendance from 561 in 2009 to 780 registered for 2017.
Berger equally is proud of the partnerships the council has built or strengthened with organizations such as TSYS, Aflac, Synovus, Waffle House, Pezold Management, Schuster Enterprises, Zaxby’s, Uptown Columbus and local school districts.
Another major move was Uptown Columbus including the Scout Expo as part of Riverfest, starting in 2015.
“That’s such a great thing,” Berger said, “to be part of the community and the community wanting us to be there in front of everyone.”
Also key was initiating Scouting programs in conjunction with the Muscogee County School District. Berger praised MCSD superintendent David Lewis for “working closely” with the council “and providing programs to some of our tougher schools.”
“The council is just a true sense of family and community that created the environment for us to grow and is very friendly to Scouting,” said Berger, who has worked for 20 years in Scouting. “There’s a rich history of Scouting in the community, and it’s just been a privilege to ensure that we’re in the forefront of the community as a youth-serving agency.”
Berger hired and developed staff members who now serve in positions of greater responsibility, including as field service directors for the Northeast Georgia Council, the North Florida Council and the Central Florida Council.
“He delegates really well but oversees everything,” McKenna said. “He gives his subordinates the opportunity to grow as a leader.”
Lucia Cronin of Milwaukee, Wisc., who chairs the Cub Scouting national committee, said in a news release that Berger’s “innovations and energy will guide the future of Cub Scouting nationally, just as they have for all of Boy Scouting in the Chattahoochee Council.”
The BSA’s area director encouraged Berger in April to apply for the position, one of several the BSA eliminated several years ago and now is reestablishing, Berger said.
“The reason why I started my career in Scouting was to make an impact on youth,” he said. “So it’s the opportunity to serve more youth and have a greater impact is really what drives me. … There are 1.3 million Cub Scouts in America, and to have an impact on that many youth is really just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Cub Scouts are in first grade through fifth grade. Berger also will be in charge of the pilot program for kindergartners, called Lions. Boy Scouts are ages 11-18 (or they can start at 10 years old if they finished the fifth grade). Venturing is the BSA’s co-ed program for ages 14-20.