File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead school board president Greg Meyer says his decision to step down at the end of his term this year was not any easy one.

He admits to having mixed emotions about leaving the board.

“I truly loved what I did for the board of education, what I did for the people of Riverhead Town, for the school district — most of all for the kids,” Meyer said in an interview Monday evening.

Meyer was first elected to the board in 2008 and has served four three-year terms. He’s been elected by board members to serve as board president three times and vice president three times during his tenure, which spans 12 years and three superintendents.

It has not always been smooth sailing. District voters rejected two capital construction bond projects that Meyer worked to develop, first in 2010 and again in 2019.

Meyer, an electrician with a construction trades background, said working on the revised construction bond project — which was approved by voters in 2011 — and helping to oversee its completion was one of the most rewarding things he did as a board member.

“I gave so much to being a part of all that,” he said. “Using the repair reserves and the energy performance contracts — we really got a huge bang for our buck. We worked really hard,” he said.

“I have no regrets about anything,” Meyer said. “I truly think things are better from when I first came in. The district has certainly made strides forward,” he said. “But there were a lot of challenges, too.”

The last year has been particularly rough, he said. The high-profile scandal surrounding former high school principal Charles Regan was especially difficult, he said.

Many times the decisions board members must make are extremely hard and often controversial, he said. They have to withstand a lot of criticism from the public — at board meetings and on social media — and it can be stressful.

Meyer said he always returns to the advice he heard at a conference for new school board members after he was first elected.

“One board member stood up — he looked like he’d been doing this for a million years,” Meyer recalled. “He said, ‘You’re going to come across some hard directions as a board member. Some will be popular, some not. You’re going to have friends that won’t be your friends any more. And you may have some enemies that may become friends. Just make sure that every decision you make, you ask yourself “Is this good for the kids?” You have to be able to lay your head down on your pillow at night,’ he told the crowd,” Meyer said.

“That always stayed in my mind. I have no problem laying my head down on the pillow at night,” he said.

Meyer, a plain-spoken, burly man who can sometimes come off as gruff, grew emotional as he reflected on his tenure and how much he loves being a board member.

“This all kind of came up quick,” he said. “The governor’s announcement last week and then it was 5 o’clock today,” he said Monday evening.

“This coronavirus — I feel so bad for the kids, especially the seniors,” he said.

Meyer said the BOE is working as hard as it can to support the students, teachers and staff during this crisis.

“It was a good run,” Meyer said. “Now it’s time for me to take a little break.”

Meyer said he and his wife Louise are looking forward to becoming grandparents as their daughter Jackie and her husband Kenny Schmidt are expecting a child “any day now.”

“We’re really excited about that. I can’t wait,” he said. “I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my life.”

We need your help.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.