High above the buildings of Uptown in the 1990s, a water tower could be seen peeking out above the red brick. For many citizens of Oxford, the water tower was a historic part of the city’s history. But Alan Kyger saw potential for so much more.
Kyger wanted to create a beautiful public space. But when he and the rest of the 1998 City Council announced their intention to remove the water tower, they faced backlash and protest from the community.
“It’s like having a wart on your face – nobody wants it,” Kyger said. “But after 20 years, it’s part of your face, and you don’t want to remove it.”
After much debate, Council decided to remove the tower and start building the Uptown park Oxford community members recognize today.
“I'm extremely proud of that,” Kyger said. “I mean, we had to go to the voters and ask for them to do it. We had to campaign for it locally.”
Kyger, a Miami University alumnus, has served as Oxford’s economic development director for 12 years and will retire at the end of the month. He has worked for the city of Oxford for over 30 years and has served as Oxford’s mayor as well as a City Council member.
Before Kyger began working in Oxford’s local government, he was a middle school teacher in Cornersville, Indiana. After returning to Oxford, he worked at his family auto dealership, where he learned about the city's intention to fix the road where his business was located.
He attended a public meeting concerning the road repair. It was there he became interested in local government and decided to join the planning committee.
“I got on there, and I enjoyed it,” Kyger said. “It piqued my interest. And I was approached to run for City Council.”
While on Council, Kyger said the city had no money. They even had to borrow money to buy a fire truck.
“In other words, you can't do a lot of public improvements,” Kyger said, “if you don't have any money in your bank account.”
In 1993, he helped raise Oxford’s income tax. That same year, he won Oxford’s Citizen of the Year.
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“Usually, you’re run out of town for raising people’s taxes,” Kyger said. “I was citizen of the year, and then that same year I became mayor.”
After serving as mayor and on Council, Kyger moved to a city staff position working as Oxford’s economic development director.
During a Council meeting on March 3, Kyger spoke about his time in Oxford, including his work to improve the water management and waste removal systems as well as his efforts to create more housing options for students to live off-campus.
During the meeting, Mayor Mike Smith announced that Thursday, March 5, 2020, would be known as “Alan Kyger Day” to honor Kyger’s service.
“Alan has been involved in the guidance and governance of our community for decades,” Smith said. “His exceptional knowledge of Oxford will be hard to equal.”
One of the challenges Kyger remembers having during his career is personally knowing the stakeholders. Due to Oxford’s size, Kyger said he would often run into people at the grocery store.
“One thing about being in politics and a small town … is you know everybody,” Kyger said. “Sometimes the decision which is right for the community, it might be wrong for you personally.”
Kyger believes that one of the reasons he was hired as economic development director was due to the continuity he would provide.
“Oxford’s a stepping stone because we’re a smaller community,” Kyger said. “As a result, it was a revolving door, so we weren’t getting things done.”
Kyger is confident his successor, current Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene, has a similar vision for where she sees Oxford in the future.
“I want Oxford to be the best college town in the United States,” Kyger said. “I want [Oxford] to be the best small town in the United States.”
Kyger will retire on March 31. After 30 years of service to Oxford, the first thing he plans to do is vacation in Florida with his family.