Teacher rolls to easy victory in Richland 1 race

Pamela Adams, a Hand Middle School social studies and history teacher, was elected Tuesday night to a seat on the Richland 1 school board, defeating four other candidates in a race that drew sparse turnout.

Adams, a mother of three, led a field of five candidates by a wide margin. She sought the backing of Republicans and Democrats for the non-partisan position and claimed the support of state Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, and former Gov. Jim Hodges, among others.

“I am overwhelmed by the support of the families in this community. I think everyone has a vision to take our schools from good to great,” said Adams, 37, who won with 57 percent of the vote. “A lot of voters as they came in today said they were excited a teacher is running, someone with current classroom experience.”

Adams, who is married to Richland County Treasurer David Adams, has said she would resign from teaching to devote herself to the work of the school board. She said Tuesday night she would fulfill that pledge. “It doesn’t make good moral and ethnical sense for me to be serving in both capacities,” said Adams, who has been teaching at Hand since 2001.

Adams succeeds the late Barbara Scott, who died in March after serving two separate stints on the Richland 1 school board and a long tenure in between as Richland County clerk of court from 1984 to 2008. She was 75.

The low turnout disappointed Adams’ most serious challenger, Karen Wilson, a former paralegal with deep volunteer ties in the schools. Wilson, who garnered just under 22 percent of the vote, had hoped to engage voters with her common sense approach to improving communication between the board and the community. About 4,000 of the eligible 133,000 registered voters cast ballots.

“Turnout is hideous,” Wilson said. “I knew it would be low but I didn’t think it would be this low.”

Wilson and the other candidates described a long day visiting precincts, some of which registered only light attendance. .

Voters had six names on the ballot. Raymond Cook, who had filed to enter the race, withdrew and threw his support to Deborah Belton, a church bishop with a background as a Richland 1 teacher and administrator. Belton came in a distant third with 13 percent of the vote. Doretha Bull, a retired social worker who had mounted an earlier bid for state superintendent, came in fourth, followed by Reginald Sims, a Richland 1teaching assistant who works with special needs children.

Jasper Salmond, a former school board member who serves as interim director of the Richland County Board of Elections and Voter Registration, had hoped for larger turnout but said he was pleased that the election ran smoothly.

“It is a very, very low turnout, but a very, very important election,” he said.

The fact that the election proceeded smoothly was good news for an agency that has been mired in turmoil since the November 2012 election debacle that left hundreds of Richland County voters standing in long lines, and many giving up in frustration. Election director Lillian McBride resigned the top post in the wake of one of the worst county elections in modern state history.

“Everything is going according to law,” said Salmond. “I think all of us really want to restore community confidence and trust in all that we do,” he said.