In a phone interview today, Arpaio told Phoenix New Times that he is currently mulling the question of whether to file paperwork to run for mayor in the 2022 election cycle.
"I’m really thinking about it and I'll make a decision pretty quick," Arpaio said. "I'm not going to mess around."
Arpaio said his late wife Ava Arpaio told him before she died last March that he should run for mayor of Fountain Hills if he were to seek elected office again. Arpaio, who is now 89 years old, said that he is in good health and wants to jump into the mayor's race because of his affinity for the town, which has a population of around 25,000 people and is located northeast of Phoenix in Maricopa County.
"I want to give something back to the people of Fountain Hills," he said. "People will say, 'Why is he running for this little job?' Well, the mayor is an important job."
Arpaio, who served as Maricopa County Sheriff from 1993 to 2016, hardly needs an introduction. During his time as sheriff, he generated scandal and public outrage for his chronic discrimination against Latinos, mistreatment of county jail inmates, misuse of public funds, lawsuits, and a federal civil rights action against his agency. (Phoenix New Times has covered Arpaio for decades. You can view our Arpaio vault here.) Arpaio was finally ousted by Democrat Paul Penzone in the 2016 election for Maricopa County Sheriff.
After Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt for disregarding a court order to stop racially profiling Latinos as sheriff, President Donald Trump pardoned him in 2017. Arpaio subsequently ran to replace former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake in 2018, only to come in last place in the Republican primary. Two years later, he tried to get his old job back and ran for sheriff in 2020. However, Arpaio's political prospects were once again cut short in the Republican primary when he lost to Jerry Sheridan, his former deputy.
The former sheriff said that, as mayor, he would try to bring "one big business" to Fountain Hills and get the local economy "back in action so people want to shop here instead of Scottsdale." He also said he wants to fill up empty lots in town and address local crime.
"I'm going to do everything I can to protect the people, get the economy going," Arpaio said. "I'm a big small-business guy."
Ginny Dickey, the current mayor of Fountain Hills, did not respond to Phoenix New Times' request for comment.
Despite Arpaio's well-known attention-seeking traits, he denied that he would run just to generate publicity for himself.
"I'm not doing it to get my name in the paper," he said. "When I go to the toilet, my name is in the paper."
Asked what would stop him from running, Arpaio said: "If Trump calls me and says, 'Hey, don’t do it.' Which he would never do."