Scoutheast Wisconsin Council and Milwaukee County Council Consolidate into Three Harbors Council

More than 24,000 youth in Scouting programs in Kenosha, Milwaukee and Racine counties have now banded together in a new Boy Scout council as the result of a consolidation vote on Wednesday. Representatives of the Milwaukee County Council and the Southeast Wisconsin Council, that serve Kenosha and Racine counties, voted to consolidate into one council that will be called the Three Harbors Council, Boy Scouts of America.

“This is an exciting time for Scouting in southeastern Wisconsin,” said Ed Brandon, who will serve as the new council’s Scout Executive and CEO. “We just celebrated 100 years of Boy Scouts in America; this is a great follow-up to that celebration. This positions us for better, stronger Scouting for the next 100 years.”

The consolidation process began early this year and developed from discussions among five councils that serve Scouting from northeastern Wisconsin to south-central Wisconsin. In those earlier informal discussions, the Milwaukee County and Southeast Wisconsin councils decided to move forward with consolidation talks. “This has been a discussion among equal parties coming together for the benefit of the Scouting program,” said Wayne Briesemeister, chairman of the Southeast Wisconsin Council’s consolidation committee. “We’re looking forward to the expanded opportunities the Three Harbors Council will be able to offer.”

Discussions Reveal Consolidation Benefits
Through their discussions, the executive boards of each council determined that a consolidation would provide enhanced program opportunities for youth in all three counties, offer expanded resources and training for adult leaders, and make fiscal sense. Existing Scouting programs, including activities such as National Youth Leadership Training, Klondike Derbies, Camporees, Roundtables and other trainings and events will remain in place. The eight existing districts that serve Scouting in each local community will also remain.

“The consolidation could present opportunities to enhance and specialize the four camps the Three Harbors Council will own, including Camp Oh-Da-Ko-Ta near Burlington, Indian Mound Scout Reservation in Oconomowoc, Robert S. Lyle Scout Reservation near Elcho in Langlade County, and Lefeber Northwoods Camps near Laona in Forest County,” said Keith Burns, chairman of the Milwaukee County Council’s consolidation committee.

Two Scout Service Centers Will Be Maintained
The Three Harbors Council will maintain two Scout Service centers which will also have shops for Scout supplies – the existing ones in Milwaukee and Racine will continue to be in operation after the consolidation. “It is anticipated that the new council will sell the Racine property and lease space that would offer convenient access for Scouts and Scouters in Kenosha and Racine counties, as well as an increased selection of items in that Scout Shop,” said Tom Mahoney, Southeast Wisconsin Council President.

Each of the former councils’ Order of the Arrow lodges will remain in place for up to 18 months, during which they will plan for lodge consolidation. The Order of the Arrow (OA) is the national honor society of the Boy Scouts of America. It uses American Indian-styled traditions and ceremonies to bestow recognition on Scouts selected by their peers as best exemplifying the ideals of Scouting. Mascouten Lodge currently serves members of the Order of the Arrow in the Southeast Wisconsin Council while the Mikano Lodge serves Milwaukee County.

“While we anticipate some savings from consolidation, finances are not the reason we entered consolidation talks,” said Michael Steinmetz, who has served as President of the Milwaukee County Council. “We always strive to be the best stewards of the donations and funding we receive; we believe we can be even better stewards with better outcomes through consolidation.”

Southeast’s Bigsby to “Re-Retire”
The only change in personnel anticipated is the retirement of Brock Bigsby, who came out of retirement to serve as interim executive of the Southeast Wisconsin Council. After 40 years of service to Scouting, Bigsby will continue to enjoy his retirement with his family. “Other current staff might be repositioned where job function duplications occur, freeing up more staff to work directly on Scouting programs rather than on administration,” Brandon said.

Each of the former councils brings particular strengths to the Three Harbors Council, including Southeast Wisconsin’s success at transitioning more Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, and Milwaukee County’s large number of urban students served by Scouting’s character-building Learning for Life and Multicultural Scouting programs.

The Three Harbors Council, which officially comes into existence Oct. 1, will be guided by an executive board that has equal representation from the former Milwaukee County and Southeast Wisconsin Council boards. For the coming year, the Three Harbors Council President will be from the former Southeast Wisconsin Council while the Council Commissioner will be from the Milwaukee County Council.

Based on recent membership numbers, the Three Harbors Council will serve more than 9,800 Cub Scouts (serving young boys between the ages of 6 and 10), about 3,200 Boy Scouts (serving boys between the ages of 12 and 18), nearly 1,000 male and female teens in Venturing (Scouting’s teen adventure program), and more than 10,500 youth in Learning for Life (serving students in PreK-12 grades).

Name Representative of all Three Counties:
The Three Harbors Council name was selected from a list developed by a naming committee that consisted of youth and adult leaders from throughout the three counties. The harbors of Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee Counties are instantly recognizable and a valuable geographic asset to the entire area. The harbor also suggests safety and a beacon of guiding light.

The Three Harbors Council has unveiled a logo and a shoulder patch design contest will be held. Units will be allowed a longer time to replace unit flags and other items that bear the council name and logo.

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