OXFORD • Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill will shed her current political affiliation as a Democrat and run for re-election as an independent, she announced in front of City Hall on the Square Monday afternoon.
“I believe with all of my heart that at the local level we need to be as bipartisan as possible to be able to achieve our greatest potential,” Tannehill said. “I’m not representing the Republican Party or the Democratic Party as mayor. I’m representing Oxford, Mississippi.”
Tannehill, 50, is closing out her first term as mayor of Oxford after running unopposed in 2017. Before becoming mayor of one of the fastest growing cities in the state, she served on the Oxford Board of Aldermen from 2013 to 2017. She is the second woman to have held the mayor’s office in Oxford.
Prior to Tannehill’s venture into municipal politics, she worked in public relations at the University of Mississippi, was an assistant director for the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and was the executive director of the Oxford Tourism Council.
Tannehill has made consequential decisions during her term in office, including imposing local safety restrictions to combat COVID-19, temporarily furloughing some municipal employees to counteract the financial struggles of the pandemic and speaking on behalf of the city when an Oxford Police Department officer was indicted for capital murder.
The first-term mayor also last year served on a nine-member committee tasked with selecting a new design for Mississippi’s state flag after the Legislature retired the previous design, which prominently featured the Confederate battle emblem.
At home, Tannehill has navigated her own challenges related to Confederate iconography when questions arose over whether the city of Oxford or the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors owned the property on which sits a Confederate monument.
Tannehill said she wants a second term to continue improving Oxford’s infrastructure, responsibly manage Oxford’s sprawling growth and continue leading the city through the pandemic.
Her announcement means that there could be potentially three candidates – a Republican, a Democrat and an independent – vying for the mayoral office in a general election if candidates from the Republican and Democratic parties qualify to run against Tannehill.
Tannehill at the campaign announcement said it “is a concern” that she might face two candidates in a general election, but that she believed running as an independent reflects the community’s attitude right now.
“I have thought and prayed a lot about this decision to run as an independent, and I feel like it’s where my heart is,” Tannehill said. “I think it’s where our community is. Our community is a community that works to make Oxford, Mississippi, the best – not the Democrats the best or the Republicans the best.”
Even though Tannehill was a Democrat when she served on the Board of Aldermen and has been a Democrat during her first term as mayor, she has long held the view that partisan politics matter little for municipal issues.
“Most of the issues that divide us are things that can’t be decided on a local level. Democrats and Republicans pave roads the same way, run police departments the same way and pick up trash the same way,” Tannehill said in 2017 after taking office as mayor.
Throughout the last municipal term of office, Democrats have held the mayorships of the three largest cities in the Northeast Mississippi region: Starkville, Tupelo and Oxford.
However, the decision by Tannehill in Oxford to run as an independent and Jason Shelton in Tupelo not to run at all deals a blow against Democrat hopes of holding all three offices.
The qualifying period for municipal elections runs through Feb. 6. The primary election for municipal races will occur on April 6, with the general election set for June 8.