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Posted: July 16, 2010 9:01 p.m.

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Walden drops out of BOE race

Rev. James T. Walden has withdrawn his name in the heavily contested District 5 Board of Education race.

In an e-mail sent Monday morning to The News, he explains that he is bowing out and will in turn support candidate Sharon Sawyer for the seat.

"I feel you represent my goals better than my opponent and I wish you blessing and know that if people will come out and vote you can win this," wrote Walden in an e-mail to Sawyer. "After a lot of prayer I could not see myself serving on a board that has hired a new superintendent who said he would not take a raise with the economy like it is and then turn around and sign a contract with a hefty raise. I could not in good conscience allow myself to do that. Also, as a pastor and volunteer here in the county, I could not see myself not continue serving in the areas I am presently serving in. I do plan on future runs in the next election for a county-wide office.”

Upcoming Superintendent Dr. Gary Mathews said that he did not take a pay raise to come to Newton County, leaving a position in Virginia where he made $187,761 and accepting the position here for $159,400.

Walden later clarified that he meant Mathews was taking a pay raise over what current Superintendent Dr. Steve Whatley is making.

Walden also said that he had a hard time getting answers to some questions he posed to current BOE members and felt “shunned.” He also said, “I didn’t have the finances to run like my opponent whose family is very involved in politics here in Covington,” speaking of Abigail Morgan-Coggin who is also running for the seat.

Morgan-Coggin said that she understood Walden’s feelings of not being able to “continue serving in the areas he is presently serving in.”

“One of my concerns in making the decision to run for office was the time commitment and how it would affect my children. After much thought, I made my decision to run knowing that, yes, it would affect my children; however, if I stood by and didn’t take the opportunity to be a voice in the education of Newton County schools students, I would be doing more harm than good.   

“I wish Mr. Walden the best in all of his future endeavors and look forward to getting to know Ms. [Sharon] Sawyer. The one common factor we all three possess is our desire to make the Newton County Public Schools the best they can be. Regardless if I am elected to serve as the District 5 representative on the Board of Education or not, I promise that I will do whatever I can to accomplish this goal.”

Sawyer said she is grateful for the confidence Walden has shown in her and thankful for his support. 

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