Colin Palmer speaking at the May 11 board of education meeting. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Central School District Trustee-elect Colin Palmer is the first member of the Democratic-Socialists of America to ever win elective office in Suffolk County.

Palmer was elected with 1,309 votes on May 18, and assumes office on July 1. He told RiverheadLOCAL in May his top goals are reinstating the district’s Latin program, expanding critical thinking development and incorporating community wide programming into arts and music education.

“Colin’s win is part of the process of democratizing our schools,” Suffolk DSA co-chair Tim Karcich said in a press release. “Now, the work of our chapter and school board trustees like Colin is to advocate with and support students in the struggle for a more just education. We are looking forward to a better future for Riverhead and Suffolk County.”

Palmer told RiverheadLOCAL today he has been a member of the national DSA since 2016 and joined the Suffolk chapter when it was formed a few years ago. Palmer said he isn’t heavily involved with the Suffolk chapter; in fact, they didn’t even know he was running for elected office until he won, he said.

School board elections are nonpartisan, meaning candidates aren’t on the ballot with any party affiliation. Palmer also didn’t campaign openly on being a socialist, however, he said he didn’t hide it either. He said that many of the issues that socialists care for, like public education and the democratization of education, are things he cares for deeply.

“When I was running, a lot of times people would talk about how they felt that the school board wasn’t open with decision making, that there was too much of a bureaucracy set up,” he said. “But for socialists, everybody should be having a say in decisions. It shouldn’t shouldn’t just be administrators and the board of education, it should be teachers, students, parents, residents of the district, all joining forces together and collective opinions.”

Palmer also said he has a deep care for diversity, equity and inclusion in education: “…that’s something that socialists feel very strongly about and that’s something that I feel very strongly about, making sure that there is this kind of deep breaths of examination in the classroom.”

The Suffolk DSA said in a press release they will begin to find potential school board candidates who support curricula oriented toward racial and social justice to run in future local elections. 

“I am confident there are more people like Colin in Suffolk County who are ready to get involved with their local school boards,” said Christian Araos, the organization electoral working group chair. “It’s on us to give them the support they need to win their elections and govern effectively.”

Correction: The story has been amended to correct the designation of the Democratic-Socialists of America. It is a political organization, not a political party.

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Alek Lewis
Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.