While recent data from the 2020 U.S. Census shows Mississippi experienced its first population decrease in 60 years, Lafayette County’s population has increased more than 14 percent in the last decade.
“Although growth is mostly a positive thing, it can create financial restraints that have to be managed,” said Lafayette County Supervisor and Board President Mike Roberts. “We are blessed in this county with employees that make it happen.”
Lafayette County’s population increased by 14.36 percent since the 2010 Census. The county is tied with Lamar County for having the second-highest growth in the state. Desoto County saw the highest population growth with a 16.36 percent increase.
The Census shows Mississippi’s population as 2,961,279 million people, marking a decrease of 6,018 since 2010, or a 0.2 percent drop.
Mississippi wasn’t alone in its decline. Illinois and West Virginia also saw declines in their population. The state’s population loss, however, was not large enough to cost Mississippi a congressional seat.
In 2015, Lafayette County implemented building codes that required building permits for platted subdivisions. In 2015, there were 165 permits issued. In 2020, 223 permits were issued, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2015, the highest number of permits was issued in 2018 when there were 264.
Roberts said that while the number of people moving to the county grows, so does the need for upgrades to infrastructure, more law enforcement and first responders as well as more sanitation employees and equipment.
“We are constantly looking for ways to improve and have been able to accomplish a lot of those needs, due to the department heads and their staff’s willingness to make it work,” Roberts said. “The county paves more roads now than ever before and is in the process of breaking ground on the next phase of West Oxford Loop, which will connect College Hill Road to Highway 7 North.”
Roberts said the county is working to find ways to get the Mississippi Department of Transportation to move forward with the widening of Highway 7 South. The county is in the process of finalizing plans for a new sheriff’s department, revamping the 911 system and updating the detention center.
“We are also looking at ways to help with some mental health issues in our county, like possible additions or renovations to Communicare,” he said.
With more people also comes more litter and sanitation needs, Roberts said. A new sanitation truck has been ordered and the county is exploring ways to grow its litter crews to help stay on top of the trash in the county’s rights-of-way.
The city of Oxford’s popularity undoubtedly plays a role in the overall county’s population growth.
In 2010, 92 new building permits were issued. In 2020, 132 were issued. So far this year, there have been 91 new building permits issued.
The city saw its largest number of new homes being built in 2017 with 394 permits issued that year. Since 2010, the city of Oxford has issued 2,646 new building permits.
Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill said she wasn’t surprised by the area’s population growth.
“Oxford is a community that pulls people in,” she said. “It happened to me. I came to Oxford as a freshman at Ole Miss in 1998, and I’m still here.”
Tannehill credits the Oxford and Lafayette County school districts as one reason people move to the area, along with quality of life thanks to cultural opportunities, SEC sporting events, unique dining options, safe neighborhoods and more.
“All in a community that has not lost its small-town feel,” Tannehill said. “But with growth comes challenges, but we have for many years had leaders in our city and county who have worked hard to preserve the parts of Oxford we treasure.”