John Meyer, who oversaw the rise of UC Davis’ new Interstate 80 front door, West Village, and a slew of other building projects, resigned on Monday after 14 years as vice chancellor for administrative and resource management.
Quick with a joke on most any occasion, Meyer noted that while stepping down at age 57, “I look 42.” He’d been considering the move for “a couple of years,” he said.
“I had someone come up to me and say, ‘Boy, you seem so intense on some of this stuff, your humor seems to be fading.’ So this is just really kind of a chance to re-energize a little bit.”
Meyer said there was “not some back story to all of this — this is not a push-out.”
“This place was fantastic to me,” he said. “I will always bleed blue and gold. Leadership here is doing some fantastic stuff. Watching (Chancellor Linda Katehi’s) level of energy is just extraordinary. I just felt like it was really time to tag out, bring some other energy in.”
Katehi, in a letter to Meyer, thanked him for his “assistance and leadership in helping guide the university through these challenging times.”
“It is thanks to you and others like you that UC Davis continues its upward trajectory of prominence and excellence,” she wrote.
A graduate of UCD and the University of Southern California, Meyer spent a decade as Davis’ city manager after two years as its deputy manager. In 2000, he moved to campus.
His responsibilities at UCD, a sort of growing city unto itself, were similar in many ways.
They included overseeing facilities, budgeting, utilities, public safety, human resources, accounting and financial services, design and construction management — even one of the country’s largest animal care and use programs.
His resignation leaves only three members of Katehi’s 14-member cabinet who served under Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, who stepped down in 2009, according to the UCD website.
The others are Jeffrey Gibeling, dean of graduate studies, Rahim Reed, associate executive vice chancellor of campus community relations, and William Lacy, vice provost of university outreach and international programs, who plans a return to teaching in July.
“Both (Provost Ralph Hexter) and the chancellor have made some extraordinary hires in some of the new teams they’ve assembled. This will give them another element in that tool kit,” Meyer said.
Vanderhoef, in an email message, said he was “very sorry to hear this news.”
“The campus will certainly miss John’s wisdom, his integrity — and his wit,” Vanderhoef wrote. “He’s unquestionably made UC Davis — his alma mater — a better place.”
Meyer oversaw a long list of building projects, including West Village, the nation’s largest planned net-zero-energy community, as well as other, less visible changes, like the implementation of a new incentive-based budgeting model.
Under it, colleges and professional schools are allocated funds based on student credit hours, majors and degrees awarded.
“The thrill is working with the talent we have here — it is a deep bench,” Meyer said. “The whole team has really just changed, literally, the landscape of the campus — a lot of the new facilities and now grounds are being overseen by the Arboretum.
“When you physically navigate the campus, that whole front door to the campus wasn’t here before. That’s not mine, that’s just something that happened during this time period that is transformational for the campus.”
Kelly Ratliff, associate vice chancellor for budget resource management, called Meyer an “amazing contributor to UC Davis” and “an excellent leader.”
Said Fire Chief Nathan Trauernicht, “I’ve had a lot of bosses in my career, but John Meyer was by far the most supportive. He cared about his subordinates and all the employees of the university in a way few people do.”
Thirty-three years old when he became city manager, Meyer gave Trauernicht — first a volunteer fire chief in Oklahoma at age 21 and UCD’s chief at 32 — advice about being a young leader.
“One thing I really took away from him was, ‘Never let your age get in the way of your intelligence, competence and ability.’ I think that’s also why he was so successful,” Trauernicht said.
Meyer’s team weathered a 40 percent state budget cut from 2007-08 to 2012-13. In 2009, to save on overhead, Budget and Planning and the Office of Administration were combined under his leadership.
In 2012, he and other campus leaders were found to be partly at fault for the pepper-spraying of student protesters the previous fall. In its wake, Katehi reassigned supervision of the Police Department from Meyer to the provost.
“In retrospect, how the campus reacted to it with the chancellor’s leadership, with the new policies from the provost on freedom of expression, new focus and engagement from the Police Department, with (new Chief) Matt (Carmichael’s) leadership, with the chancellor appointing outside bodies to come in and review our procedures — I think we ended all that up in a much better place,” Meyer said.
Meyer’s wife, Karen Moore, a Holmes Junior High School social studies and geography teacher, is retiring this year.
They don’t plan to leave Davis.
“I’m a lifer,” Meyer said. “We’ll always have some engagement (with the campus), and there’ll be some role in the future, but there are a lot of capable people around. One person does not do all of this. This is a big community.”
— Reach Cory Golden at email@example.com or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden