Rumors of the Sullivan's Island school controversy's demise were greatly exaggerated.

Or so it seems.

Two years ago, some islanders asked the town council for a referendum on their new elementary school. Some didn't like the plan to replace the old school with one twice its size. Others didn't like the location, even though that's where the old one sat for nearly 60 years.

The council declared the petition flawed, with only Mayor Carl Smith supporting the referendum.

Now, with a lawsuit still pending, Sullivan's Island is going to get its referendum — sort of.

You see, some of the petition folks are mounting a write-in campaign to get Smith re-elected mayor.

And that pits him against current Mayor Pro Tem Mike Perkis, one of Sullivan's Island Elementary School's most ardent supporters.

A chance to vote

Smith decided a while back he wouldn't run again.

He served two terms as mayor, and has been on council since 1987. That was long enough for him.

But when some of the referendum folks realized that only Perkis was running for mayor, they asked Smith about a write-in-campaign. Maybe they were persuaded by his March op-ed piece in The Post and Courier, in which he again defended the rights of the pro-referendum crowd.

Smith agreed to let folks distribute literature and put up signs on his behalf for the May 7 election — but said he wouldn't campaign.

“If they want me to continue to serve, I will,” he says. “It's certainly not for the power or the money.”

Make no mistake about it, there's an element of this that has to do with Smith's tenure, his longtime service to the island. That'll win some votes.

But a lot of it is about school politics, plain and simple.

“To some degree, that's it,” Smith concedes. “Some people are just upset they didn't have a chance to voice their opinion.” Well, they are going to get their chance in a few weeks.

Uphill battle

Perkis is a good guy and another long-time member of council. He's glad the election commission sorted out the controversy over the write-in campaign and agreed to count everyone's vote, because “that's the American way.”

Smith says his relationship with his pro tem is “cordial,” but admits their opposing views on the schools have caused a little strain. Still, they agree on a lot of other things.

In other words, it comes down to the school. Unsurprisingly, Perkis agrees.

“I think it has everything to do with school politics,” he says.

You would think this would be over by now. The school district already has started laying the foundation for the new school. What lawsuit? they say.

And even if the uphill write-in campaign for Smith is successful, it wouldn't mean anything, since the rest of council — many of which will return — support the new school.

But at the very least, the folks opposed to the current plans for the new elementary school will get to have their numbers counted and voice their opinion.

For whatever good it does them.

Reach Brian Hicks at