CHARLESTON, S.C. – Last October, Nick Shalosky was just your average 21-year-old college student studying political science. Involved in local LGBT advocacy and political circles, Shalosky was certainly aware of those running for office – in fact, he was working to help get some folks elected. No one could have known, including him, that in just a few weeks time, Shalosky would become South Carolina’s first openly LGBT elected official.
Shalosky’s feat was made public in a mid-February guest commentary on the LGBT blog, Bilerico.com In the piece, Shalosky discussed his election for the first time in front of a national audience. Many LGBT people had no clue that he’d been elected to the Charleston County Constituent School Board. The Victory Fund, Stonewall Democrats and even the writers here at the Q-Notes office – everyone was in the dark.
“I didn’t even know until [Stonewall Democrat communications director] John Marble told me,” Shalosky told Q-Notes, speaking of his status as his state’s only openly gay official. “I just hadn’t put two and two together.”
The College of Charleston junior, who serves as the S.C. Stonewall Democrats chapter secretary, decided to run for his school board seat when we was early voting in October. Looking at the ballot, he saw no one had signed up to run. He turned to Facebook.com and organized a write-in campaign.
Other than the little online organizing he did, Shalosky spent hardly any time campaigning for the position. Come election day, he was out working for other candidates.
Sworn in to the position in December, Shalosky said he’s beginning to get situated and work with other members of the board. He says he’s surprised at just what his election has meant personally and publicly.
“When I came on the board, I shifted the majority. I’m actually the swing vote,” he said. “It has been interesting now to see the other side of politics after the campaign and how that changes.”
He’s enjoyed working with constituents and reassuring them that his age and relative inexperience won’t affect his ability to lead. Not only is he the youngest member of the board, he’s the only one under 40, not from Charleston and gay.
“I’ve been contacted by constituents because of the unconventionalness of my position,” he said. “I’m definitely an outsider, but I’m starting to work my way into the alliances on the board. I think I’ve persuaded a lot of people that I’m a good person to hold the position.”
Shalosky said he hopes to bring a younger, fresher and student-oriented perspective to the board. “I’m from Conway, S.C. – 15 miles from Myrtle Beach – and I m a recent graduate of the public schools.”
Shalosky’s particular board represents a smaller constituent district. While he doesn’t serve on the primary board of education – the body with actual policy-making power – he says he hopes to work with other constituent board members to advance safety for LGBT students.
The Charleston County Schools do not include sexual orientation or gender-identity in anti-bullying or non-discrimination policies.