As a father of two, I frequently find myself shuddering at the words that come out of my mouth. I never thought I would hear myself saying “the only thing you can count on in life is change.” It’s rather cliché, but clichés exist because they carry universal truths.

When I agreed to take on the role of board chair of Camp Fire First Texas, I quickly realized first-hand how prescient those words would become. As many of you may know by now, Camp Fire First Texas is conducting a search for a new President/CEO. After five years in the role, and more than 46 years with the organization, Ann Sheets announced her well-deserved retirement. Change is at our doorstep.

Thanks to Ann’s leadership, Camp Fire is in an enviable position in the community and among its council peers. The financial health of the organization is strong, the board is more diverse than ever, capital improvements at El Tesoro — including the new Lake Leo — are nearing completion and our early childhood/youth development activities are delivering tangible results to our community every day. Bottom line, Ann is leaving Camp Fire even better than she found it. Now, the task before us all is to take this council to new heights.

On behalf of the board of directors I want to share a series of blog posts where I’ll outline the path we’re taking to find the next leader of this organization we all love. I’ll also attempt to provide some deeper context and answer any questions that arise during the process.

Here are the concrete steps we’ve taken since Ann’s announcement in December 2019:

1. Transition Task Force –

First, we appointed a Transition Task Force. This committee is comprised of a diverse range of members from the executive leadership team, the El Tesoro Foundation and board members at large. I’m honored to chair this committee that includes such prestigious and dedicated members as Anne Carvalho, Donna James-Harvey, Adelaide Leavens, Lisa Mares, Randi Mitchell and Kelly Walter. Not only will this team guide the recruitment and selection of a new President/CEO, but also will ensure a smooth onboarding to the organization as well as with the community at large.

2. Staff and Leadership Insights –

Next, we conducted an anonymous survey of the more than 100 staff members at Camp Fire and held in-depth interviews with all eight leaders on the executive team. We gathered insights on ideal traits and characteristics for the next President/CEO that helped inform the job description.

3. Community Stakeholder Interviews –

Through the generosity of North Texas Community Foundation, members of our Transition Task Force met with the leaders of other Fort Worth non-profits who recently replaced their CEOs and uncovered some best practices and key learnings for our search. In addition, we are in the process of scheduling conversations with many other community leaders and foundations to ensure their voices are heard.

4. Partner with Executive Search Consultant –

Because of the importance of this role, we elected to work with a professional search consultant. After reviewing proposals from five highly qualified consultants, we selected Charlotte Keany to guide us in this process.

Through all this activity, we clarified the needs for our organization and honed in on a comprehensive job description, which was posted on February 21. Our goal was to reach a diverse pool of candidates, so the role was posted locally, regionally and nationally across a variety of job boards. As of publication deadline, we’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response, and it is clear this will be a very competitive field of applicants.

Standing on the precipice of this next chapter in Camp Fire First Texas’ story is humbling. For more than 100 years, Camp Fire First Texas has impacted countless lives for the better and we have an amazing opportunity to build on the incredible foundation that we’ve inherited. We also have the chance to view our mission through the lens of tomorrow and find the right leader to help us adapt to face the future.

Often, I imagine that if one of the earliest Camp Fire First Texas participants were to step into a time machine and travel from 1920 to 2020, she would see an organization simultaneously foreign and familiar. No question, this visiting Blue Birds participant would find some facilities and programs completely unrecognizable. However, I’m confident our time traveler would also take great comfort in realizing that the core of Camp Fire First Texas — our mission to help young people find their spark — has remained rock solid.

As we face this chapter of change, I am mindful of the legacy we’re building for the next 100 years. My sincere hope is that this Transition Task Force plays a small part in strengthening the positive impact Camp Fire First Texas has on our community. With the steps we’ve taken so far, I am confident we are already walking the right path.

Let’s ensure that if that same time machine were plopped down in the middle of our Diamond Hill Station after school program tomorrow, the child who transports to the year 2120 will find an organization that supports the youth of our community, fosters a love of the outdoors and assures everyone a seat at the table.

Through it all, this committee, and the board as a whole, embraces change and welcomes the opportunity to evolve the organization while remaining unwaveringly rooted in our mission and values. I invite you to walk beside us.

Jake Yarbrough

Camp Fire First Texas Board Chair