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Oxford advances to Strongest Town finals

​Oxford has advanced to the championship round in the competition to be named America’s Strongest Town.

The city easily picked off Bentonville, Ark. in the semi-final round of voting and now faces Lockport, Ill. in the final round of voting now underway.

​Voting ends on Thursday at noon CDT, and a winner will be announced on Friday. Visit: www.strongtowns.org/journal/2021/4/5/strongest-town-championship-round to cast a vote.

​In announcing the final round of competition for the Sixth Annual Strongest Town competition, Strong Towns hosted an interview with Oxford officials including Mayor Robyn Tannehill, which was conducted by Strong Towns Founder Charles Marohn. The interview, which had been expected to stream live, was recorded and is available as a podcast at strongtowns.org/podcast.

​Tannehill described Oxford as a town, “that just draws you in,” noting she came to town in 1988 as a student and never left, which is a story she noted she hears “often.”

“It is a town that values every resident that we have and has a strong transit opportunity for everyone. What sets Oxford apart more than anything is the people. That is something you can’t replicate in other people and Oxford, Mississippi is a strong town that supports each other,” said Tannehill.

​She explained how the town and the University of Mississippi create a synergy that makes the town a special place, describing Ole Miss as “the whole in the center of the donut.” Noting it is hard to tell where the university stops and the town starts, adding officials work very hard to integrate students into the community to get input and make them feel as if they are residents of Oxford and not just visiting students.

This year’s Strongest Town competitors were nominated to the contest “based on how their town rose to address the challenges that came with the coronavirus pandemic.” Tannehill was asked about Oxford’s efforts to respond to the pandemic.

​“We did work as hard as we could to protect both lives and livelihoods,” she said, noting the town did make mistakes including in its definition of an “essential business.” “I think we got that wrong but, in the end, we have learned so much about our community and we’ve seen people step up to solve problems that perhaps they have become more keenly aware of once they slowed down and looked around and said what do my neighbors need,” she added. She added Oxford is now in its “recovery and rebuilding stage” following the pandemic.

​Last week, the representatives were featured on The Bottom-Up Revolution podcast, by Strong Town Media. That interview conducted by Rachel Quednau, Strong Towns program director, can be downloaded at strongtowns.org.

​Oxford has now advanced through four rounds of competition. In the most recent round, Oxford blew out Bentonville by receiving 67 percent of the vote. In the previous round it defeated Yellow Springs, Ohio and in the first round took down Ridgewood, New Jersey.

​In addition to Tannehill, Oxford’s Director of Planning Ben Requet, and Jon Maynard, CEO and President of the Oxford, Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation and Chamber of Commerce have all worked on the city’s application and competition process.

​Strong Towns is a non-profit advocacy organization based in Minnesota that was founded by engineer Charles Marohn, an engineer and land use planner. Its mission is to: “Help local leaders identify the cause of decline in our cities and take action to build a stronger, financially resilient future. The Strong Towns movement is reshaping the North American development pattern with a return to bottom-up, incremental growth.”