Both incumbents on Sumter School District’s Board of Trustees that were in Tuesday’s runoffs lost, meaning there will be a new board member representing the new District 1.
Incumbent Brian Alston was defeated by challenger Daniel Palumbo, who took 57.7 % of the votes, or 311 votes. Alston received 42.3%, or 228 votes. Votes will be made official on Friday, according to the Sumter County Voter Registration and Elections Office.
In the midterm election on Nov. 8, Palumbo was the second-highest vote-getter with 35.43%, or 722 votes, following Alston, who earned the most with 37.49%, or 764 votes. They both beat Sharon Tiegue, who came in third and therefore did not make the runoff.
A runoff is necessary when there are more than two candidates on the ballot but no one receives a majority of the votes (50% plus one vote). This is the first election the school board required a candidate to earn a majority of votes, rather than a plurality when simply the candidate with the most votes wins, even if it is under 50%.
Palumbo has been a Sumter resident since 2013. He is retired from the U.S. Air Force and owns a Kona Ice franchise that serves Sumter, Columbia/Lexington and Clarendon counties. He has two children attending schools in the district.
“It was a great hard fight, but now it’s time to start to work and getting our children a better education,” he said. “I’m excited, and I’m ready to get to work.”
Alston, a Rembert native, has served on the school board since the November 2018 election. His term will end in December.
“From the moment that I took the oath of office, I have ensured that my focus has been on putting our students and our staff first, and that will continue through the end of my term. I’m not finished with serving our community, our students or our staff,” Alston said. “My prayer is that this new board governs without personal interest, the cultural wars or the partisan politics and puts the focus on the children.”
Alston said leadership isn’t about being in the position. It’s about the work done in that position, and he hopes that’s the case with the work he’s done on the school board since 2018. He doesn’t plan to end his service just because he lost the seat.
“This will not be the end of Brian Alston in Sumter School District or Sumter County,” he said. “There’s so much more work to do, and I’m addiment about ensuring work gets done.”
In December of last year when it became apparent that five trustees on the nine-member board did not want to move forward with former Superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox, Alston admitted to The Item that personal agendas and biases had dominated the board's activity since 2018. Alston was an outspoken supporter of Martin-Knox, who left the district for another superintendent post in June.
All new school board members will be installed in early January.
Sumter’s school board moved to nine single-member districts for this election and moving forward. Previously, the board was comprised of seven single-member districts and two at-large seats since 2017. The boundaries were redrawn in response to the 2020 census and to legislation written by Sumter’s state lawmakers after millions in overspending was revealed in the school district’s 2016 audit. At that time and originally, the trustees were a seven-member board.
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