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Posted: July 16, 2010 9:02 p.m.

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BOE District 5 - Sharon Sawyer (D)

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Sharon Sawyer

Though Sharon Sawyer’s five children have all completed their education in the Newton County School System, she has three young grandchildren under the age of 6.

"What led me to run was my concern for my grandchildren’s education in this county. I’ve had my own children, I teach children at church. They look to us for solutions," Sawyer said. "Every adult has a responsibility to participate in their child’s education."

She said the downfall of the housing market is finally taking its full effect on the school’s budget, and the school system is going to have cut back on services. She said other community organizations may have to pick up the slack.

"What are you expecting from the schools as a parent? Do you want your children to be educated or to learn how to throw a baseball? We have to be realistic. We can’t rely on schools to maintain their levels of services at this time. Hopefully, they’ll come back later," she said.

"We have to make some new, innovative changes to fit the school system within the budget. We have to maintain the educational aspect, because that’s what students need to get jobs. We have a good recreation system and a strong Y, among other groups."

She said she hopes the school system can find ways to partner with community businesses and industries. When she grew up in Atlanta, many of her friends completed paid internships with companies in high school and ended up retiring with that same company. She said not every child is college material and this could be a path for them.

However, she also realizes that advances in technology require most job applicants to have an advanced education. While Sawyer managed to have a successful career without a college education, she knows that most children today won’t have that ability.

"I’m 57 and close to retirement, but my kids can’t maintain themselves on the education I had. Things are so automated today, that we can’t teach simple menial skills. Children have to be innovators. They have to find a way to make things better, quicker, more efficient," Sawyer said.

Sawyer said she has experience in finance and has had to work through budget cuts in her professional life. As with many other companies in the current economy, Lithonia Lighting has had to maintain its current productivity with less staff.

Sawyer is a senior claims specialist where she works to find solutions to payment disputes. She said her department handles hundreds of thousands of dollars in claims. She previously worked for radar detector manufacturer Beltronics for eight years and as a bookkeeper at Dun and Bradstreet, a corporate credit rating company.

She attended high school in Atlanta, and took some college courses at DeKalb College, as well as professional accounting courses through her jobs.

Sawyer is a founding member of the African-American Historical Society, and a co-host on the local radio show Thy Brothers and Sisters Keeper on WGFS 1430 AM. Her husband is Forrest Sawyer Jr., a local black historian and civil rights activist. She is also a former foster parent, a deacon at Early Hope Baptist Church, and a co-host with Main Street Covington for the Gospel on the Square program.

Sawyer said she knows it will be difficult for a Democrat to win in District 5, but she felt she had to run to represent the party and provide some competition and choice for the voters. For more information e-mail her at, check out her Facebook page or call her at (770) 788-0792.

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