Advocating a continued close relationship with Oxford College, incumbent Oxford City Councilman Hoyt Oliver is challenged by Toby Malcolm, who is in favor of distancing the city from the college, in the Nov. 6 municipal elections.
Oliver, 71, is running for his third four-year term on the city council (he previously served an appointed half-term on the council from 1980-1982.) A former religion professor at Oxford College for 40 years, Oliver retired in 2006. He has lived in Oxford for the past 41 years.
"I do see that the welfare of Oxford College and the city of Oxford are entwined together," Oliver said. "I'm pleased that the college and the city are working together on future planning."
This is the first time Malcolm, 39, a warranty supervisor for Parkside Homes, has run for a public office. A Newton County resident all his life, Malcolm has lived in Oxford for the past eight years. Malcolm said he is a frequent attendant at Oxford city meetings.
Malcolm said his years as a warranty supervisor have given him the experience necessary to serve on the city council.
"I deal with a lot of problems and have to reach agreements between the builder and the homeowner," Malcolm said. "So I'm a problem solver and I think I could apply that to the council."
Malcolm said he decided to run for city office after he was urged to do so by several Oxford residents who he says were concerned that not enough viewpoints were represented on the council.
"I just feel like a younger, more common point of view would be a welcome sight on the council," Malcolm said. "Most of the people that are on the council are older. I feel like the same people have been in there for so long that some of their ideas are not up to this day and time."
In terms of future planning, Malcolm said he was in favor of seeing the city of Oxford gradually distance itself from Oxford College. Malcolm said he would like to see the city evolve separately from the college.
"I feel like we're too accommodating to the college," Malcolm said.
Both Oliver and Malcolm expressed similar views on maintaining Oxford's small-town atmosphere while at the same time encouraging some limited economic development.
Oliver said any commercial development which takes place in Oxford should primarily be for the support of the college and the Oxford community.
"I do have a strong conviction that what commercial and office professional development we do in Oxford should be primarily for the benefits of Oxford and the college community," Oliver said. "I'm not interested in developing commercial or offices that would attract from a much more public area.
Malcolm said he would like to see a small 'mom and pop' store come to town.
"I would like to see some types of business," Malcolm said. "A store would be a nice start."
Both Malcolm and Oliver expressed strong reservations to the idea of any large industrial operation coming to the city in the future.
"I want to do all that we can to protect us from the industrial and other development that is encroaching on us from all sides," Oliver said. "I see Oxford as a vitally important historical city which is a place of education and residences and churches."
Oliver said he would like to see the city structure its taxes in such a way as to encourage further home ownership. Oliver suggested that the council look at municipal homestead tax exemptions as one way to do so.
Both Oliver and Malcolm encouraged the public of Oxford to attend planning meetings for the city's ten-year comprehensive plan. The next meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 18 at the Oxford City Hall.
"I really would advise everybody to come listen and hear what they're talking about," Malcolm said.
Oliver said he would like to see a public discussion on whether or not the city should annex any more land into the city.
"I would like very much for us to look carefully at the areas around us and talk carefully about whether we want to annex anymore," Oliver said.
Since retiring, Oliver says he has kept busy by working on the city's ordinances. He also serves on the city's Planning Commission and the city's Tree Board. He is a member of the Oxford Historical Shrine Society, The Arts Association in Newton County, the stakeholder group for Newton County's future transportation plan and is a board member for Keep Covington/Newton County Beautiful.
Oliver and his wife, LaTrelle are members of Allen Memorial United Methodist Church. Their son, Erik Oliver, is special assistant to the dean of Oxford College. They also have a daughter, Laurie, and one grandchild, Lucas. In his free time Oliver enjoys woodcarving and practices Zen Buddhist meditation.
Malcolm served on former Oxford Mayor Don Ballard's advisory board. He and his wife have two children, Logan and Carter. They are members of The Church at Covington. Malcolm also coaches youth football and baseball for the Newton County Recreation Department.
"I'm just a common person," Malcolm said. "I really think that a common point-of-view is needed on the city council."