In 1988, Robyn Tannehill arrived in Oxford as a student at the University of Mississippi. Twenty-eight years later, she is running to become the next mayor of the City of Oxford. After completing her degree at Ole Miss, Tannehill never left Oxford, and she’s been able to call this town home for each stage of her life and career.
“There’s so much to love about Oxford, and there’s been something different that’s drawn me to it in every stage of my life,” Tannehill said. “As a student, it was the fact that the campus was big enough to always meet someone new but small enough to see a familiar face. As a newlywed and a mother, it became about the small town feel and the school systems. Whatever is important to you at any given moment of your life, Oxford can truly meet that expectation.”
Tannehill’s degree was in art and interior design, but she followed a different path to her decision to run for mayor. After working for the PR department on campus, her career trajectory would continue to connect her to the city she loved. Working as the director of tourism, Tannehill’s vision was responsible for the creation of the Double Decker Arts Festival. After it’s success, Tannehill started her own ad agency, Tannehill Agency, and eventually sold the business to become a stay-at-home mom. Her time as a stay-at-home mom became an opportunity to volunteer all over the city and build relationships with Oxonians. These relationships led to her decision to run for public office. In 2013, Tannehill ran to represent Ward 2 as their Alderman.
“I was so involved with so many things and frustrated with certain things, and I’m one of those people that likes to put their money where their mouth is,” Tannehill said. “I’m not going to sit on the sidelines; I’m going to make a difference. So, I ran and wasn’t sure if I had a chance, but I won and have worked hard to make Oxford a better place ever since. When Mayor Patterson decided not to run, I felt that this was a natural progression for my career, and it is a way to see through the work I’ve done as an Alderman.”
Tannehill referenced the work the Board of Alderman has done to address the parking situation in downtown areas adjacent to campus, updating city neighborhood ordinances and numerous other improvements to the quality of life around Oxford. Appealing to all ages has been important to Tannehill while working in Oxford as she was able to be involved in positioning Oxford as a retirement destination in 1993. Curiosity struck as people wondered why retirees would move to a college town, but Tannehill had a very simple answer.
“People may not realize it, but college students and retirees want the same things: constant entertainment, good restaurants, safe streets, so it’s actually an incredible match,” Tannehill said.
There’s no denying that Oxford has grown since Tannehill arrived, but she has continued to ensure that Oxford doesn’t lose its charm in the process. She has been an integral part of the Vision 2037 process, a plan for the development of Oxford’s future. After helping put these plans together, Tannehill wants to be the one to see them through as the mayor of the city.
“I don’t want Oxford to ever look the same as anywhere else; the eclectic mix we have here is unparalleled. In order to preserve the character and things about Oxford that we treasure, we’re going to have to be diligently proactive about the changes we make,” Tannehill said. “I don’t want people to wake up one day and realize they don’t recognize their town anymore. We need someone who has a vision for the future and what we need to protect moving forward.
“We need someone who will listen to different sets of views, not just one set,” Tannehill continued. “Oxford is made of so many different characters with so many opinions and people from many different backgrounds. This makes for a collection of people that all bring something different to the table, and I think I’ve been able to incorporate as many people as I can throughout my career.”
Tannehill is the first person to announce their candidacy for mayor, and while she is unsure of how many people will run, she is sure of one thing. Tannehill will run as a Democrat but believes that the office of the mayor shouldn’t be bogged down by party politics.
“It shouldn’t be a partisan position. In four years as an Alderman, I haven’t voted on anything that has been a partisan issue. I don’t think that Republicans or Democrats pick up trash, pave roads or build community centers any differently. I don’t believe that partisan politics has a place in municipal government,” Tannehill said.
While her campaign has only just begun, Tannehill is in the early stages of creating a “tagline” but has a clear focus that her candidacy will center around.
“Vision for the future, and respect for the past,” Tannehill said. “I hope I get the chance to see my vision for Oxford’s future through while respecting everything that gives Oxford its charm. I love a problem that we can work together on and find a solution that works for everyone.”
The election cycle will ramp up before the primary election in May 2017, and the general election will occur on June 6, 2017.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.