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Oliver retires from Oxford City Council

Oxford City Councilman Hoyt Oliver stands in front of the City Hall that was constructed during his tenure as a councilman. He is retiring after 12 years of service and plans to devote more time to family, reading and hobbies, which include woodworking. He's wearing a sample of his work, a wooden Buddhist Wheel of Dharma with eight spokes which represent the eight paths of the Buddhist teachings. Staff photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Oxford City Councilman Hoyt Oliver stands in front of the City Hall that was constructed during his tenure as a councilman. He is retiring after 12 years of service and plans to devote more time to family, reading and hobbies, which include woodworking. He's wearing a sample of his work, a wooden Buddhist Wheel of Dharma with eight spokes which represent the eight paths of the Buddhist teachings. Staff photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

OXFORD -- Retiring after 12 years on the City Council seems to be in keeping with Hoyt Oliver's trend of adhering to numerical milestones in the Bible.

When he retired from teaching at Oxford College in 2006, Oliver said, "I had been teaching 40 years and I was 70 years old. Those were good biblical numbers and I thought it was a signal."

And so it is fitting that he would retire after three terms from the Oxford City Council.

Oliver did not seek re-election this year, and will step down when his term expires in January. Lyn Pace Jr., who is chaplain at Oxford College, ran unopposed in Tuesday's election for the Post 3 City Council seat.

Oliver moved to Oxford in 1966 when he began teaching social sciences and religion at Oxford College. He is an ordained Methodist minister and a practitioner of Zen Buddhist meditation. He has degrees in philosophy, religion and higher education.

Oliver was first appointed to the City Council in 1980 to serve a year and a half of an unexpired term of another councilmember. He said he wasn't led to seek election to the seat until 1999, at which time he was ready to take on a new challenge after serving for six years on the Oxford Planning Commission.

"I had a desire to work for the good of the city and the citizens, and I had some kind of dismay with how council had been running," Oliver said.

He said he saw three major challenges facing Oxford at the time he took office in 2000: out-of-date infrastructure, unqualified city staff and an unhealthy relationship between the city and Oxford College. Throughout his tenure on the council, Oliver worked to address those concerns.

"I think things have changed greatly for the better," Oliver said.

For instance, he said the city's staff, both in public works and at City Hall, is more competent. In particular, Oliver pointed to the change in administration with a city manager form of government.

He said building a new maintenance facility and City Hall are also examples of improvement as well as good stewardship. Oliver pointed out that the new City Hall was built without the use of property taxes.

"We paid for that with savings from our MEAG (Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia) trust fund," he said. "We used SPLOST and investment money -- not taxes."

Oliver said the city has also worked to develop a new zoning code, which includes a new mixed-use town center zoning. This is something that was accomplished as a result of an amiable and mutually helpful relationship between the city and Oxford College, he said.

"I want to pay my compliments to the City Council, particularly in the last four years," Oliver said. "I am just delighted how we can all get along and take responsibility for our own areas. I am so glad to have served in Oxford rather than other councils around Newton County."

Oliver said Oxford still faces some significant challenges in the future. He said the city's water lines are aging and will need to be replaced. Finding a productive use for the old municipal and police department building will also be a challenge. And, once the economy begins to rebound, overseeing the proper development of the town center district will be important for the City Council.

An ongoing concern for the citizens in Oxford, Oliver said, is Covington Municipal Airport, which is located just on the outskirts of town, and its future development.

Once Oliver's term expires at the end of the year, he plans to continue his involvement with the Newton County Leadership Collaborative. However, he said he looks forward to dedicating more time to his personal joys, which include spending time with his grandsons, reading, woodworking and tending to his vegetable garden.