Small businesses are the backbone of Oxford’s economy. I have started and owned a small business in this community, and my husband, brother, and brother-in-law are small business owners in Oxford. I know how hard small business owners have to work, and how important they are to our community.
The past year has been anything but normal for Oxford and our small businesses. So many have been affected – some to the point of going out of business. I often hear people say we want to get back to “normal.” We don’t want to get back to “normal”. I want Oxford to be better than ever before. I want to help build an Oxford that provides the best services to its citizens, has the best police and fire protection, and is recognized one of the greatest places to live and come visit in the United States.
As Mayor, I have always done – and will continue to do everything in my power to support the growth and health of our local businesses. The pandemic has presented challenges no one could ever prepare for. My administration has made tough decisions balancing the lives and livelihoods of our community. There are three post-pandemic stages – Response, Recovery and Rebuilding.
My administration began working on our response to the pandemic in February. With the help of the City of Oxford Department leaders, my administration drafted an Infectious Diseases Manual to guide city operations. We also put together Serving Oxford Safely Plans that put safety measures in place for businesses. We found ways to serve our community by providing free hand sanitizer and free face masks, and worked closely with Baptist Memorial Hospital and local clinics to develop a method to track our rates of infection. City of Oxford Employees were used to keep the Pantry open throughout the early weeks of the pandemic, and we established a Help Line for those who needed assistance with grocery or pharmacy deliveries. OPD assisted senior citizens during shopping hours at grocery stores. We set aside parking spaces to be used for curbside delivery for retailers and restaurants. Let me be the first to admit that it has not been perfect, but we listened to our small business owners and made every effort to assist them.
As we enter the Recovery Stage, my administration continues to develop and implement initiatives to support local businesses and residents by reducing the bureaucratic process. Our hope is that we as a local government can add to our pandemic responsiveness in ways that can provide quick wins for local businesses and community health. We have temporarily suspended the requirements included in our sign ordinance allowing businesses to promote themselves in various ways. We have implemented outdoor dining in our downtown area to provide more tables for restaurants facing limited capacities and safer dining options to our citizens.
In the Rebuilding Stage, we will focus on long-term planning that helps people come back stronger by rethinking new systems that make us more resilient and successful. My administration will put people first. We have established a Pandemic Recovery and Rebuilding Task Force to identify ways we, as City leaders, can eliminate regulatory road blocks and develop policies that support well-being, along with economic and environmental health. The pandemic has increased the urgency of making these changes as quickly as possible and clearing away the bureaucracy that often causes these sorts of initiatives to be years in the making. Our residents, businesses, and governments cannot wait that long anymore.
We have learned important lessons from COVID-19, and will be better prepared for what comes next. I am reminded that “[t]he struggle you are in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.” Thank you for the opportunity to serve, and I would ask for your support and vote for a second term as Mayor of Oxford.