Tannehill believes Oxford deserves consistency and experience
By Chaning Green, News Writer
Robyn Tannehill announced her candidacy for mayor last week. Tannehill has served the Oxford community with the tourism board, the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce, a volunteer and more. Most recently, Tannehill served as Ward II Alderman for the City of Oxford. Her announcement to run came just a week after current Mayor Pat Patterson announced that he would not be running for reelection in the 2017 mayoral race. Tannehill sat with Oxford Citizen reporter Chaning Green last week to discuss her past service to the City and her candidacy as mayor.
Chaning Green: Did you fully intend to run for mayor this year before Mayor Patterson announced he wouldn’t be running again?
Robyn Tannehill: No. I wasn’t going to run if Pat ran. I made the decision after he decided not to run.
Pat and I have been friends for 25 years. I felt like that if he was running again, then maybe that’s not where I was supposed to be right now. I’ve prayed about it a lot and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and analyzing it from every different angle and I just felt like if this is what I’m supposed to be doing, he’ll decide not to run. If he decides to run again, I’ll just stay right where I am. But then he decided not to run. I was going to run for alderman again. I thought that if he runs again, I should wait four years.
Pat’s got us in a really good spot to move forward. We’re in about as good of a financial state as any other city in the state of Mississippi, and I think we’re just poised to move to the next step. We’re determining what the future will look like. We’re making choices that are going to affect us in the long term. Some of them good and some of them bad, and though I don’t get it right every time, I work as hard as I can research as much as I can to make the best possible decision.
Green: How long have you been thinking about running for mayor?
I’ve been thinking about this for probably about the last year. My mindset was that if Pat doesn’t run again, then I might throw my hat in the ring. It seems like a logical progression for me. Each step of my career has been not so much planned out as it has fallen into place. I have made logical next steps. From what my career was in marketing and public relations, to doing tourism work, then volunteering in certain roles in the community. I was president of the Chamber of commerce, president of the arts council and I was chair of the $30 million school bond referendum. I was involved in so many different city committees that it just seemed like a logical progression to run for alderman, and now with Pat not running, my logical next step is to run for mayor.
Oxford is in such a critical time. I feel like we are in our adolescence and that if we make one bad misstep, it will stick with us for the rest of our lives. We’re still a little bit unsure about what the future holds and exactly what we’re going to be when we grow up.
Green: You’ve previously said that your family is a big reason why you’re running. How did the react when you told them you were running?
Tannehill: They were surprisingly supportive in my decision. I spend a lot of time doing city work, which I enjoy. It gets my motor running. A problem makes me enthusiastic, and I love to look at it from all different sides and analyze it to find the best solution. That’s fun to me. My family sometimes pays the price for all of my city involvement, so I halfway expected them to be like, “You’re gonna do what?” but they weren’t at all. My husband and kids all told me “I think it’s what you’re supposed to do.”
It was very encouraging to me that they were so supportive. It’s very important to me that my kids understand that God put us here to take care of other people. He has blessed Oxford so enormously, and it’s our job to take care of it and manage it well. I want my kids to be givers, not takers. I think that demonstrating to them what it’s like to serve your community is the best way to teach them that it’s not just about you. It’s about leaving this place better than we found it and investing your time and energy doing what you can to make it better.
Green: What is your favorite part of being an alderman?
Tannehill: My favorite part, I guess, is just having a voice at the table. I’ve always wanted to give my opinion and get involved where I could, and I have really enjoyed being able to be part of the solution. I love putting my money where my mouth is. There are people who talk the talk and people who walk the walk. I want to do both.
I love to get input from people. I want to hear from people who have a different opinion than mine. I don’t assume that my way is the only way to do it. I welcome lots of different opinions, and I think that is something that I’ve really valued about being a part of this board of aldermen. The seven of us come at things so differently. We all have so many different backgrounds, points of views, strengths and weaknesses. We’re all so different, and I think that has helped us come up with some really creative solutions. We’ve got lots of different voices at the table. I have enjoyed working with this board so much. I’ve enjoyed trying to find good solutions to good problems.
Green: What do you mean by “good problem?”
Tannehill: I’ve been in the Delta the past couple of days and when you look around at the challenges they have like streets that can’t be paved, to downtown buildings that are boarded up, to lack of job opportunity — we don’t have that. You drive back into Oxford and just say, “Wow, we don’t have those problems.” Growth is not a problem. It’s a challenge and it’s also an opportunity. I’ll take our set of challenges and so-called problems over any other set in the state.
Is there anything else you would like the people of Oxford to know?
Like I said, we are in our adolescence here in Oxford. We are in the middle of so many plans that have been put in motion for years ago that we’ve been working toward, and I want to see them through. We’ve worked so hard over the past four years on Vision 2037 and we have only just adopted our Future Land Use Map.
Now we’re in the most critical part of Vision 2037 overall plan of rewriting code and writing all of our new ordinances that will affect how Oxford will look forever. We’re in the process of planning a new Actives Center, we’re in the process of building two major thoroughfares, we are in the process of moving forward on the parking garage — there are just so many things happening right now. I think consistency is really critical here.