Activist investor John W. Palmer appears to have won his bid for a seat on the board of the $1.2 billion-asset HF Financial Corp.

The Sioux Falls, S.D., parent of Home Federal Bank announced Tuesday that Palmer was one of two candidates elected at the company's annual meeting earlier in the day, based on a preliminary vote count. Thomas Van Wyhe, an existing director who was nominated by management, won the other seat.

Final results will not be available for two weeks, but if they stand future board meetings could get testy.

Palmer is a principal at PL Capital, a Naperville, Ill., investment firm that is HF Financial's largest outside shareholder. In announcing his candidacy in September, Palmer said he was running for a board seat on behalf of shareholders who have been frustrated with the company's earnings and stock performance since it raised $20 million of capital in 2009.

But management said in a letter to shareholders last month that Palmer's sole aim in gaining a board seat is to force the company's sale and urged shareholders to vote for its two nominees, Van Wyhe and Christine E. Hamilton.

Palmer and his fellow principal at PL Capital, Richard Lashley, are active investors in community banks and are well known for pressuring companies to sell themselves or take other significant steps to increase returns to shareholders.

In Tuesday's news release,  HF Financial Chairman Michael Vekich said that he and the board "look forward" to working with Palmer.

"Together with the other members of the board, we will work in the best interests of all shareholders," he said.

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