07/04/10 — Tuscarora Boy Scouts welcome new council executive

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Tuscarora Boy Scouts welcome new council executive

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on July 4, 2010 1:50 AM

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Tim Harper talks about his life in Scouting and his plans as the new Scout Executive for the Tuscarora Council. Harper, a native of Lenoir County, said he hopes to carry on the tradition of quality programming offered by the council and to expand that programming into communities where it has been under-represented.

When Tim Harper was 14 he got the chance to go on an expedition to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. His experience there convinced him that the Boy Scouts offered the life he wanted to lead as a man.

Harper, 53, who became the Tuscarora Boy Scout Council's new Scouting executive in June, said it was the inspiration

of an old Scout leader that made him want to work in Scouting full time.

The late Van "Smoky" Higdon of Kinston was a longtime volunteer leader in the East Carolina Council. A man of commanding presence, Higdon was the epitome of Scouting to hundreds of boys -- the kind of man a boy would want to emulate. On the trail at Philmont, Harper said, Higdon's leadership showed him what a lifetime of adventure Scouting offered.

"I would listen to him talk and watch what he did," Harper says now. "I knew then that this was what I wanted to do."

That spirit of adventure is still evident in Harper's demeanor. He lives, eats and breathes Scouting. A native of Deep Run in southern Lenoir County, Harper was part of the resurgence of Scouting in that area. In the early 1960s, his mother, Pansy, a dynamic sprite of a woman, saw to it that Tim got a chance to join the Cub Scouts in Moss Hill, a few miles away. He had come home from school with a flier advertising the creation of a new Cub pack there.

Why, Mrs. Harper asked Higdon, couldn't there be a Cub pack in Deep Run? No reason at all, Higdon told her. That was the beginning of the resurgence of Scouting in Deep Run and Harper's involvement in it.

Eventually, he earned his Eagle rank. By then he was looking for the best way to make a career in Scouting. A handful of colleges offered studies in American Humanics, preparing students to work with young people. High Point College was one of them and Harper enrolled.

After graduating, he met his wife, Annette, and they soon married. They have three children, daughters Erin, 27, Meredith, 22, and son Adam, 14, who is working toward his Life Scout rank.

Harper soon became a scoutmaster in Alamance County, involved in an in-school program with boys with special needs. He later served in a variety of capacities -- field director, district executive, program director, assistant Scout executive -- in High Point, Burlington, Raleigh, Tyler, Texas, and for the past six years, Greensboro, where he was finance director for that council.

The Tuscarora Council includes four counties: Wayne, Johnston, Sampson and Duplin. As Scout executive, Harper said his job is to be the face of Scouting is this region, to promote it and to manage the staff members. He also helps with fundraising, a key to any council's success.

"We have a tremendous amount of supporters throughout our four counties that are very generous," Harper said.

He said he is excited about his new job, not only because it brings him closer to his roots, but because of the reputation the Tuscarora Council has.

"This council has a long, rich history of quality programming," he said. "It has a great reputation."

He said that although he hopes to put his own stamp on Scouting in the council, that he sees no need to radically change the agenda forged by his predecessors.

"My goal is to make sure we continue that quality programming," he said. "If there is a young man out there looking for something, for some guidance in his life, it's our responsibility to offer that programming to him. All young men," Harper said, adding that one of his goals is "to reach out to the communities we are not serving."

Harper said his first few weeks on the job have mostly involved getting around the council, meeting scoutmasters, board members, Scouting supporters.

Another key part of his job, Harper said, is to constantly be on the look for volunteer leaders. Finding young men who want to be Scouts is never a problem, he said, it's finding enough men to take the time to become leaders.

He praised the men and women who already are giving of their time and energy.

"The time our Scout leaders give is absolutely priceless," Harper said. " We couldn't pay for it.

"From den leaders to the council board, they are just dedicated folks," he said.

Scouting is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Harper said he is especially excited to be taking over the reins of the Tuscarora Council at such a special time. Scouting's tradition of character building is still at the core of what the organization is all about, he said.

"We started with a set of standards that we haven't faltered on at all," he said, referring to the creation of Boy Scouts in America in 1910, based on the organization begun in England by Lord Baden-Powell a few years earlier. "We still have that same set of ideals today.

"My wish is that, if we exist another 100 years, and I think we will, that someone will be able to say the same thing."

Still, Harper understands that although the call of the wild is what usually brings a boy to Scouting, that it must keep up with the modern world to keep his attention.

"We've got to keep up with what kids are interested in today," he said. "Camping and the outdoors, that is still the attraction, but the things that interest kids today, we know we have to keep up with."

He noted a new merit badge for computer expertise and pointed to a pocket on the new Scout shirt that includes an extra pocket for an iPod.

As Scouting enters its new century, Harper said his greatest joy in his work is the fact that each day brings a new experience and that he cannot predict how what he does each day will affect the future.

"It's something new every day. No two days are alike," he said. "And the fact that even though I'll never meet them all, I know what I am doing is helping some young person out there, maybe years from now. That makes it all worth while."

Mr. Smoky would