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B&L’s Luann Meyer Named Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) – NY Chapter, President

February 25, 2021

I attended my first SWANA conference in 2005 when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, and had only been working in the industry for less than 5 years. After the conference I completed the survey that the conference organizers always ask you to fill out but probably only 10% actually do. The last question was – “would you be interested in volunteering?” and I answered how I always would with a “sure!” Next thing I knew I was being trained to take on the role as the Technical Program Coordinator for the conference. Most would think taking on a role as a Technical Program Coordinator with a little one at home wouldn’t be the best choice, but I was at the stage of my life where I didn’t turn away any “extra” work. I was a YES Woman! Plus I realized the value of being a member of an organization where I could network with colleagues with the same interests as I have. I found that even though we might think we are too busy to take on something new, that you won’t advance if you continue to push it off. I continued to volunteer for more roles within the SWANA organization such as the Young Professionals liaison for the NY Chapter, then the SWANA International Board of Directors, and finally as the Vice President of the Chapter which ultimately leads to the Presidency. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my colleagues within SWANA as well as at B&L.

Being the President of an organization, whether you are a man or a woman, isn’t something you can just jump into. You need to gain knowledge of the organization, its financial structure and its overall goals. This takes time…often years. My road to the Presidency was actually quite perfect as I slowly was exposed to the inner workings of how a board works when I was the Young Professional Liaison. At that point I wasn’t a board member, but was invited to attend the board meetings and kept up to date on the board happenings. When an opening on the board became available, it was an easy decision for the other board members to vote me in as well as an easy transition. I continued to gain valuable knowledge as I was appointed to the International Board of Directors where I met with SWANA members from all the Chapters across North America for four years. When you are a Chapter to a larger organization, it is important to understand your place in the Big Picture of an International organization. Additionally you learn what other chapters are doing that you can learn from and try with your own chapter. I gained valuable insight from our Chapter partners in the Mid-Atlantic Region, New England, Pennsylvania, California, Georgia and so many more. It also never hurts to get to know the Executive Director and the amazing staff members at the National level. Their work and dedication to the organization only makes your life as an Executive Board member that much easier.

With all this experience under my belt, moving into the Presidency was easy, but what made it even easier were my fellow board members, including the Past President, Secretary, Treasurer and our newly appointed Vice President. It is truly a team effort and my fellow board members go above and beyond to help the SWANA-NY Chapter be successful. I’ve learned it is not all on your shoulders as the President, but instead your responsibility to keep the ship afloat and moving in the right direction.

There have been challenges along the way during my Presidency, like dealing with COVID-19 and having to switch from an in person conference to a virtual conference – two years in a row! That is a big hit financially for our organization, so we have to be smart with how we manage our money during these challenging years. It’s also been sad as we’ve lost a Board Member and life-long SWANA members to COVID-19 during my presidency. As much as we already knew, many others learned that our members in the Solid Waste and Recycling industry are essential during a pandemic and their safety and health is imperative. SWANA partnered with GLAD to set up a scholarship fund for those workers effected by COVID-19 plus we’ve penned letters urging the CDC and Governor Cuomo to place Solid Waste and Recycling workers on the eligible list for the COVID-19 vaccination.

As I wrap up my term as President at the end of 2021, I will be grateful for what I learned and the relationships I built. I intend to continue to stay involved as the Past President and figure out what the next chapter involves as a member of the SWANA Board of Directors. My advice to other young women looking to lead – just say YES!