View of Oxford Square from city website.
The greatest challenges facing the North Mississippi city are a result of tremendous growth.
In times of great uncertainty and stress, it is easy to lose sight of the good things going on around us. Our communities suffer when fear and despair infiltrates and hate is allowed to fester.
As the national dialogue continues to be on the negative impacts of the pandemic, economic crisis, historic unrest around the world, and tragedies from coast to coast, the citizens of Oxford, Mississippi can look to the facts for encouragement.
In 2022, Oxford not only came back from the pandemic – we roared back!
Our city is growing at an unprecedented rate. People want to live, work, and play in Oxford. As a result, people from all over the country are coming to invest in Oxford because they believe, like I do, Oxford is a city that has a high quality of life in a safe environment, with excellent food, entertainment, a world class university, top rated public schools, and is going to continue to grow and thrive despite what is going on in the rest of the world.
Oxford’s population is approximately 28,000. This means that Oxford has grown approximately 200% since 2000. The 2000 census reported Oxford had 13,677 citizens, and the 2010 census reported Oxford had 19,111.
From 2011 to 2021, Lafayette County had the highest rate of growth of any county in the State. Lafayette County is projected to be nearly 60,000 people by 2030 which would move us from 14th to 12th in the most populated Mississippi County rankings.
On weekends when Ole Miss has a home football game our town often swells to in excess of 200,000 people. That means Oxford has to have water and sewer infrastructure in place for more than 200,000 people to flush the toilets and have quality water supply for 365 days a year. Infrastructure to accommodate these large numbers of people with only 28,000 taxpayers remains Oxford’s greatest challenge.
I often say that if the greatest challenges the City of Oxford has are a result of tremendous growth, then we should be careful what we complain about. There are communities all over Mississippi and the southeastern United States that would love to have Oxford’s “problems” related to our growth.
However, enormous growth does present challenges, and let me tell you from experience that there is no book, article, app, or website to prepare a community or its leadership for the growth that Oxford has experienced and will continue to benefit from.
Even though the latest census predicts our population to be 28,000, we know from services our city provides, water and sewer usage, and traffic numbers that this number is much lower than the actual number that call Oxford home. There are an estimated 60,000 people in Oxford on any given day with the workforce that comes in from surrounding areas, student population, and “part-time residents” with second homes here.
People want to be in Oxford – not just on an Ole Miss Football or Baseball game (let me take this opportunity to remind you that Ole Miss is the 2022 National Champions in baseball) weekend. They want to retire in Oxford. People are finding ways to commute to their jobs, so their children can attend our wonderful public schools.
Development is happening on every corner of our community. Since my election in 2017, my administration’s goal has been to focus on proactive planning for the future in an effort to protect the things about our community that we treasure – the unique qualities that define who we are – while making the necessary changes and embracing our growth. This includes not only evaluating and developing roadmaps for our future commercial and real estate growth, but it also includes planning for public safety, public health, protection of the quality of life we have come to enjoy and expect, protection of our neighborhoods, encouraging our cultural and arts development, and many other things.
Oxford’s tax base of 28,000 people makes it extremely challenging to handle all of Oxford’s needs – infrastructure, planning, public safety, and otherwise. My administration has placed an emphasis on working with our state and federal leaders to assist Oxford with state and federal funding. We have had to make many trips to Jackson and Washington, D.C., but Oxford is so fortunate to have great leadership in state and federal government that do anything they can to assist.
All of this growth makes Oxford a small town with big city problems, which brings many challenges. Oxford and our citizens are victims of our success in some ways. One of the most obvious issues caused by our growth is Oxford’s real estate prices. It has been said that real estate in Oxford is sold by the spoonful – not by the acre – which makes it difficult for working class families to afford to live here. The City of Oxford will continue to work to make affordable housing a priority for our citizens. This difficult issue forced my administration to be creative, and we were the first city in Mississippi to adopt an affordable housing incentives ordinance.
Without progressive thinking Oxford and other Mississippi towns/cities will die. You do not have to look far in Mississippi for a community that has fallen prey. I believe it is important to recognize that these local government issues are not partisan – they affect Republicans and Democrats. Communities that waste time arguing partisan politics over local government issues are doing their citizens and community a disservice.
The City of Oxford, and my administration, are not perfect – far from it. However, we have been able to seek input from our citizens, employees, and business owners to propose new ideas for solutions to problems and to act on them for the betterment of the community.
The bottom line is that Oxford, its citizens, employees, and weekend visitors have a lot to be grateful for – regardless of the negative you hear every day on the news.
Be encouraged that Oxford is growing at an unprecedented rate and will continue to do so. My administration will continue to focus our energy on positive growth that produces a high quality of life for our community. Hopefully, if Oxford is able to maintain a high quality of life for its citizens and visitors it will equate to positive results for all of Mississippi.