By Annaleis Smith
Jan 16, 2019

Flip Phone or Smartphone? Why Having a Unit Commissioner is Like Having a Smart Phone

Remember back when…?

Remember how you felt when you got your first cell phone? Now you could get and receive phone calls even when you weren’t at home. That was so great – and a little annoying too. And do you remember when your friend, or in my case my husband, got their first smartphone? He kept telling me that I needed one too. But I didn’t think I needed one. I loved my old, red, Nokia flip phone. I could make phone calls, I could text, and take pictures of my kids. And isn’t that the purpose of my cell phone really, to keep in contact with my friends and family? I didn’t see the need for all those extra ‘fancy’ features like email, browsing, etc. – that’s what my computer was for. But when that phone died we replaced it with my first smartphone. At first, of course, it was a little annoying because I had to learn what it could do and how to use it, but eventually, I came to rely on all the things it could do that my old flip phone couldn’t do. I could now send and receive emails, search the internet, get directions and even play better games (Snake was played daily while waiting for my kids to get out of school on that old flip phone). I now rely on my smartphone daily for much more than just communication. To be honest, now it’s hard to imagine not having a smartphone. (No offense meant to those of you still using and loving your flip phone).

Unit Commissioner is like a smartphone

Many Scout leaders run their packs, troops or crews without the help of a unit commissioner. I would like to equate that to a flip phone.  Everything works and everything is fine and working like it should. At least that’s how it feels. But just like a smartphone, a Unit Commissioner can help bring so much more to your program. But what if you had more resources, what if you had someone from the district in your corner looking out for you, communicating with you, connecting you with district resources and so much more? I would like to propose that much like me with my first smartphone, there is going to be a learning curve. And I would bet that there are things out there in Scouting that you didn’t realize you needed or wanted until you got them. And I think that once you have, and properly utilize, a Unit Commissioner you won’t be able to imagine Scouting without one.

And just like the many brands and styles of smartphones, each unit commissioner will have their own style and set of skills as well. Some may be better suited for packs and others for troops. And just like when we got our first smartphone, sometimes we need a little training on how to get the most out of its features and capabilities. For some, having a unit commissioner may seem a little annoying, like someone from the district is checking up on them but believe me that is not what they are there for.  The #1 goal of a Unit Commissioner is to help your unit succeed. For others, it might feel like “finally, someone to help me navigate through all the confusion” type of feeling. A unit commissioner can help with planning, leadership concerns, program ideas and so much more. It may take a while to get used to the idea and learn to utilize the resources that a unit commissioner can bring. A trained Unit Commissioner can truly be an asset to every unit.

Unit or “New” Unit Commissioner

What kind of Unit Commissioner do you need? That depends largely on how long your unit has been around. If you have been around for a while and have a really good handle on how things work in Scouting, you probably just need a regular Unit Commissioner. Unit Commissioners are usually assigned to up to 3 units. Those 3 units could be all packs, all troops, all crews or a mix. In the Utah National Parks Council, most of the units will be brand new in 2020. A brand new unit should be assigned a New-Unit Commissioner. It’s not that the Commissioner is new (although we will have plenty of those also) but that the unit is new. A New-Unit Commissioner should be assigned to just that one new unit. The New-Unit Commissioner should be assigned during the forming stage and will work closely with the organizer/founder of the new unit as well as the new COR and Committee Chair. There is much a Commissioner can do to make sure all the paperwork is done and help facilitate the creation of the new unit. In fact, they commit to at least 3 years with that new unit. Helping them get up and running, planning their first year’s program and helping out with all the initial bumps and bruises associated with getting a new unit going strong.

How do I get a Unit Commissioner?

So, let’s say you have decided that you need to get a smartphone, that you need a Unit Commissioner. What is the process of getting one assigned to your unit? If you are an existing unit you might already have one assigned but don’t know it. Or, you may not and just need to ask.  Contact your district commissioner to find out who yours is or who can be assigned to you. If you are in the process of starting a brand new unit, again talk to your district commissioner and let them know that you would like the specialized help of a “New-Unit Commissioner”. Now keep in mind that in our council this position of new-unit commissioner is new to the commissioners as well. We have very few Scouters who have experienced actually starting a new unit. They may be learning right along with you, but it’s still better to know you are not in this alone.

How to BE a Unit Commissioner?

Maybe your experience in Scouting would help you be a good Unit Commissioner. For 2020 and beyond maybe it’s an option you are looking at. That’s great! We are going to need Scouters willing to fill this role just as much as we are going to need Scoutmasters, Cubmasters, den leaders, CORs etc. Just like the saying “Every Scout deserves a well-trained leader,” it’s been said that “Every leader deserves a well-trained commissioner.” In fact, that is the motto or tag line or whatever you call it for the Commissioner Cabinet of the Utah National Parks Council. There is specific training for commissioners beyond the basic training you can find online on It’s called Commissioner College. There are lots of classes available and in fact, there is a class specifically for those assigned to brand new units. If you want to become a Unit Commissioner, let your district commissioner know. If you want to find out more, check out the training online and/or come to a Commissioner College (our council is planning at least 3 in 2019 – Jan 19th in Lehi, Nov 9th in St. George and another in Spanish Fork Fall 2019).

Share your stories here!

Have you had a great experience with a Unit Commissioner or are you a Unit Commissioner who has had some good experiences serving your units? We would love to have stories shared in the comments. Help others understand what a Unit Commissioner has done or could do for them.


Author Annaleis Smith is a “stay-at-home” mom of 5 (3 boys 2 girls).  She has been a Cub Scout leader since 2003.  She has also been involved with district roundtables since 2008 and various council committees (including Akela’s Council) since 2010. Annaleis currently serves as a Cubmaster, Assistant Roundtable Commissioner, and president of the Commissioner College Cabinet

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.