Oxford Mayor Leon Smith expects to stick with what he says works in eighth term
by Patrick McCreless
Aug 30, 2012 | 8156 views |  0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Leon Smith, mayor of Oxford since 1984, discusses his upcoming eighth term in office Wednesday after winning Tuesday’s election. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
Leon Smith, mayor of Oxford since 1984, discusses his upcoming eighth term in office Wednesday after winning Tuesday’s election. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
OXFORD — Leon Smith leaned back in his office chair Wednesday behind a desk covered with family photos. He was dressed casually, wearing a jacket and collared shirt without a tie. The room was filled with 28 years’ worth of awards, pictures and knick-knacks.

Everything seemed the same as it has been for years, with nothing to indicate Smith had won an eighth term as mayor the previous night.

It was just the way voters wanted it: business as usual in the city of Oxford.

And Smith has every intention of giving them what they want.

“My vision for the next four years is the same as it’s always been — I’m going to continue to do a good job,” Smith said. “The door is always open in Oxford. We will do business and we will do what we think is best for Oxford.”

Smith said he expected growth to continue along Interstate 20, starting with the opening of the Publix Super Market across from the Oxford Exchange later this year. Smith dismissed allegations made during the campaign by Cristy Humphries, his main opponent, and by others, that Oxford relied too heavily on retail and not enough on businesses with higher-paying jobs.

“That’s ignorance on their behalf,” Smith said. “I think I’ve done my share of getting business into this town.”

Under Smith’s watch, Oxford has become the retail hub of Calhoun County, a landscape which includes the Oxford Exchange. Manufacturers have also moved to the city, including Kronospan and various suppliers for the Honda auto manufacturing plant in Lincoln.

As election returns rolled in Tuesday evening, Smith’s position as mayor was never threatened. He won all but one polling place, acquiring 56.2 percent of the vote. Humphries won 43.4 percent of the vote while third mayoral candidate Russell Mullins had 0.37 percent.

Smith spent a large sum of money on his re-election, more than $52,000 as of Friday. However, Smith said he did not feel threatened by Humphries’ campaign, which spent nearly all of the more than $32,000 in contributions it received.

“Yeah, I did spend a good bit of money,” Smith said. “But I didn’t think she was much of a challenge.”

However, past election results show that Humphries was Smith’s toughest opponent to date. Smith’s winning percentage has dropped steadily since 2004, when he won with 68 percent of the vote. Smith won re-election in 2008 with 59.42 percent of the vote. In 1988, Smith won with 78.8 percent of the vote and then won election again in 1992 with 75 percent. Smith then had a huge victory in 1996 when he received 81 percent of the vote.

It wasn’t just the mayor’s office where things stayed the same. All the City Council incumbents on the ballot — Chris Spurlin, Steven Waits and Phil Gardner — easily won re-election. However, the council did have two vacant seats because current council members June Land Reaves and Mitch Key decided not to run. Their seats were won by candidates Mike Henderson and Charlotte Hubbard.

Henderson, who last served as a councilman from 2004 to 2008, said he will be able to work with Smith and the rest of the council.

“I got along with the mayor the last time, we just disagreed on some things,” Henderson said. “But I don’t have any problems with the mayor or problems with anyone on the council.”

Hubbard said she does not foresee any difficulties working with Smith or the council.

“I’ve known all of them for a long time,” Hubbard said. “I was principal for Oxford Elementary School for Smith’s grandkids.”

Smith said he was willing to work with Anniston’s new mayor, Vaughn Stewart, and its new City Council.

“I thought that he’s a pretty nice guy,” Smith said of Stewart. “If they want to work we can, but if they want to just talk, we won’t. They do a lot of talking.”

Smith said though he expects more growth in Oxford the next four years, he currently did not have a new business committed to moving to the area.

“I ain’t got nobody signed up, but that don’t mean anything, they usually sign up before they leave,” Smith said of business prospects. “I like doing business with business.”

Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.
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