The most critical 2022 races for Charleston County voters may be those for school board. For the first time in recent history, all nine seats are up for grabs thanks to a move to newly gerrymandered, odd-shaped county single-member districts. Only two incumbents are on the ballot. That means there will be big changes on this board that has been controversial for too long.
If you haven’t done your homework on the best candidates for your area, here are our local suggestions. (NOTE: This is an extended endorsement with more information than in the Oct. 26, 2022, print edition of the Charleston City Paper.)
Charleston County School District Board of Trustees
- District 1 (Mount Pleasant): Doyle Costello, who will bring a passion for improved communication, civility and transparency. Costello, a Mount Pleasant resident who has five children with her husband, says she’s been active in schools across the country as the family has grown. “I want our students to know that someone cares about them and that they can reach for the stars,” she told the City Paper. “If I am elected, I will bring civility, honesty, transparency and trust back to the board room.” We like her spunk.
- District 2 (East Cooper): Sarah Shad Johnson, a proven advocate for parents and teachers who doesn’t believe in delegating policy control. A member of the county’s District 2 Constituent School Board, Johnson has a background in law, finance and policy. She’ll bring a fresh commitment to transparency and good board governance. “I value our public education system and want all children to have a positive school experience.”
- District 3 (Charleston-Mount Pleasant): Pam McKinney, a former teacher who values transparency and listening. McKinney, who grew up among teachers to become a teacher herself, says her background gives her a “unique understanding of the diversity of students in our schools.” She, too, focuses on positive student outcomes: “We need a school board that stays focused on the most important thing: delivering an excellent education for every student. The board must also be transparent and accountable to the people of Charleston County.”
- District 4 (Charleston-North Charleston): Courtney Waters, an incumbent who will be an institutional bridge for governance. The new board needs her institutional memory and two years of experience to ensure it has the relevant background as it makes decisions on governance and hiring a new superintendent. “I am deeply committed to ensuring we center the children who most need our attention as evidenced by both quantitative and quantitative data,” she said. She’s rightly concerned about the need for constituent school boards, which are an anomaly in education. She should also make sure, however, that she recuses herself from decisions where there might be a conflict of interest.
- District 5 (West Ashley-North Charleston): No endorsement.
- District 6 (West Ashley): Lee Runyon, a seasoned educator whose “classroom first” philosophy offers hope. He explains the concept to be “where we create sustainable value over time for every student and teacher in order to grow and retain our best educators in the profession they are called to do.” A former teacher and principal, Runyon’s 28 years in local public education will help guide the board in new, important ways.
- District 7 (West Ashley): Jen Mieras, a passionate supporter of public education in a district filled with good candidates. She’ll be able to apply lessons from professional experience in public and private sectors and as a charter school board leader to support “policies and resource allocation to ensure all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential.” Mieras believes in transformative change — and that includes the school board and how it works.
- District 8 (Ravenel-Johns Island): Darlene Dunmeyer, a listener who understands the board’s role in good governance. She says she’ll be the voice of her community, not the echo. We like that way of thinking — committing public service to benefit students in her district, many of whom perform below how they should and who live in poverty. She’ll be focused on closing achievement gaps with data-driven solutions that work. And she’ll ensure the board keeps its policy role, while the district superintendent focuses on management.
- District 9 (James-Folly-Kiawah islands): Carol Tempel, a lifelong educator who will advocate for teachers and students. Tempel, a familiar name in education circles, will fight for certified, highly qualified teachers in each classroom. She’ll push for better teacher pay and to keep classrooms from being overcrowded. A former constituent board leader, she says she understands “the educational and financial complexities of CCSD, the value of working collaboratively, and I will make decisions to support teaching and learning for all students.”
Other Charleston County races
- Probate Judge: Irv Condon, an experienced incumbent who delivers for people, not a party. He says his objective now is just like when he first ran for the office — to help people in what can be complex situations. “My focus on helping others led to the creation of the life-saving, problem-solving specialty courts in Charleston County — the drug court, the veterans treatment court and the mental health court.”
- Register of Deeds: Karen Hollings, a seasoned real estate veteran who has the know-how to do the job. A 16-year veteran of the Deeds office, she scored a June primary win by beating a first-term incumbent with a record of mismanagement. Now she deserves the chance to provide the office with much-needed stability and efficiency that county residents deserve.
- County Council, District 8 (Ravenel-Johns Island): Joe Boykin, whose priorities of dealing with traffic congestion, growth and transparency are refreshing. He wants to tie funding of infrastructure to growth and development by charging developers for costs of infrastructure stemming from their plans. “I believe there is much more that unites than divides us and, in the end, we are there to serve the people we represent.”
- County Council, District 9 (James-Folly-Kiawah islands): Julie Hallman, a self-described “preservationist” whose voice would boost the county’s focus on the environment. A Realtor who lives on James Island, Hallman is a neighborhood leader who seeks to be a voice of preservation on council. “All council members should work together to support the county’s mission to promote and protect the quality of life in Charleston County by delivering services of value,” she said.
Candidates for three other seats — Herb Sass in East Cooper’s District 1, Larry Kobrovsky in East Cooper’s District 2 and Teddie Pryor in North Charleston’s District 5, have no November opposition.
Contested Statehouse seats
- District 15 (North area): J.A. Moore. Passionate and hard-working, he has proven himself to be an advocate for regular folks. An incumbent, he says he’ll continue working to protect women’s health care rights, to end a shortage of teachers in the state and to improve South Carolina’s infrastructure.
- District 80: (East Cooper): Donna Brown Newton, a Mount Pleasant native dedicated to sensible gun safety and women’s health care. She believes the seat should be held by someone who lives in Mount Pleasant and knows the community intimately. Other priorities include strengthening voter rights, dealing with traffic and protecting the environment.
- District 94 (North Area): Ilene Davis, whose background in financial matters would be welcome at the Statehouse. “I know the value of a public tax dollar and I can follow the trail of how it’s spent,” she wrote. We like the three Rs of her campaign: “Reflection, Revitalizing state policy and Restoring excellence to the community. I will apply the 3Rs to everything I do.”
- District 109 (North Area): Deon Tedder, an attorney who will keep pushing for more affordable housing, which he says hasn’t been addressed adequately. “The cost of housing continues to increase in our communities to the point where people are being forced to move further away from where they work,” the freshman incumbent said. “I will continue to introduce legislation … to make sure our citizens are not priced out of their homes.” That’s the kind of laser focus that’s needed.
- District 110 (Charleston): Ellis Roberts, a lawyer whose disdain for divisiveness and extremism is vital for change. “We need representatives who will listen to their constituents and lead with common-sense,” said Roberts, a Mount Pleasant attorney. “The Statehouse has become less focused on the issues that matter and preoccupied on cultural war issues designed to divide us.” Hear, hear. We applaud his spirit to unite in these divisive times and hope he can make a difference.
- District 112 (East Cooper) David Artushin, whose focus on aging infrastructure is important, wants the state to grow in smart, environmentally-conscious ways. He also backs a series of progressive issues that seek to push the state forward, from protecting the coast from offshore drilling to fighting for public schools and bringing new jobs to the state.
- District 114 (West Ashley): Michelle Brandt, an environmental scientist committed to integrity and transparency. She brings a passion for data-driven decisions, particularly in boosting affordable housing, improving schools and protecting women’s reproductive rights. “My leadership will promote more creative solutions to address the various issues facing the Charleston area.”
- District 115 (James Island to Rockville): Spencer Wetmore, an incumbent who is the real deal — a proven leader with zeal to protect our coast. She says she’s running for re-election “to continue my work to ensure that our beautiful community remains safe, prosperous and livable for all of our children. I believe that when we work together, without political division or regard for ‘getting credit,’ we can accomplish great things.” And that’s what we need, now, more than ever.
- Districts 116, 119: No endorsement.
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