‘America’s Toughest Sheriff’ Sets His Sights on Being Toughest Mayor

By Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.
October 21, 2021 Updated: October 21, 2021

FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz.—To millions of his conservative admirers Sheriff Joe Arpaio is something of a living legend, though he’s viewed as a heavy-handed law enforcer by his detractors.

Whether you love him or hate him, Arpaio is a powerful personality—even at the age of 89—with strong opinions on where America is heading.

It’s not looking good, he says.

But the “American legend” says he has no intention of fading away in a time of need.

That he’s stood firm on the important issues of the day has only bolstered his popularity, it seems. He’s still tough on crime—and criminals—regardless of who they are in life. After all, that’s how he earned the nickname of “America’s Toughest Sheriff.”

“The media gave me that name,” Arpaio says with a grin as he spoke with The Epoch Times on Oct. 18. “Then, I wrote a book (Sheriff Joe Arpaio: An American Legend). I don’t mind (the nickname). But if they call me ‘America’s Meanest Sheriff’, I wouldn’t like that. If they call me ‘America’s Nicest Sheriff’, I wouldn’t like that either.”

Proud of his Italian heritage, he’s also earned the title “America’s Good-Hearted Godfather,” but he’s okay with that.

Epoch Times Photo
“America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio sits at his office desk in Fountain Hills, Ariz., on Oct. 18., 2021. (Allan Stein/Epoch Times)

It goes without saying that Arpaio remains staunchly unapologetic about his controversial methods being America’s top crime fighter.

As sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, he instituted chain gangs for both men and women. He then built the infamous “tent city” to house some of the nation’s worst offenders. He even began issuing pink underwear to felons to prevent theft of the white variety.

He stands unfazed by critics of his hardline stance on illegal immigration. The southern border crisis under President Joe Biden is vindication in itself, he says.

In fact, Arpaio, who served as sheriff from 1993 until his electoral defeat in 2016, has few kind words to say about Biden, or his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama. But he won’t stoop to “badmouthing” them, or any other political opponent.

He will, however, proudly show you his birth certificate to prove he was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on June 14, 1932.

Even today, Arpaio questions the authenticity of Obama’s birth documents. He caught major flak for that, after he launched an investigation into Obama’s legal status while he was in office.

“You never take anything for granted in politics,” Arpaio says he’s learned after nearly four decades in law enforcement. “But let me tell you this—I’m well known around this universe.”

That, too, goes without saying.

Upon meeting Arpaio for the first time in his office in Fountain Hills, Arizona, one is instantly taken by the vast expanse of Arpaio’s media-driven universe.

Hanging on a wall are rows of autographed pictures of Arpaio posing with past Republican presidents George W. Bush, his “hero” Donald Trump, and other GOP notables.

Dominating other walls are front-page newspaper and magazine articles, encased in glass, depicting Arpaio as America’s premier law enforcer.

Epoch Times Photo
“America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio considers former President Donald Trump his “hero.” Here, Arpaio stands in front of the many pictures he’s had taken with former U.S. presidents over the years in his office in Fountain Hills, Ariz., on Oct. 18, 2021. (Allan Stein/Epoch Times)

The man—the American legend himself—however, appears older these days, and thinner. Today, it’s Monday, Oct. 18, and he’s wearing a blue blazer and a light blue casual shirt and slacks. He sits back at a big desk with the brass name plate “Sheriff Joe Arpaio” displayed prominently in front.

As Maricopa County’s former top cop, Arpaio says he feels he still has a job to do—something vital, and personal.

That something is a basic need to give back to his adopted hometown of Fountain Hills, population 25,000, after living, and serving, in the community as sheriff for so many years.

Arpaio, however, says he has no qualms about his political future—he wants to become America’s toughest mayor in Fountain Hills.

He says it with such conviction, it almost sounds like a done deal.

Fountain Hills town clerk Elizabeth Klein said that as of Oct. 19 only two candidates have filed papers of interest in the Aug. 2 non-partisan mayoral race—Arpaio, and his opponent, Kelly Smith. Mayor Ginny Dickey has not filed papers yet.

Each candidate needs 324 signatures on a petition to become a viable candidate, Klein said.

As mayor, Arpaio says he’ll be all business.

Epoch Times Photo
Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio reflects on the passing of his wife, Ava, after 62 years of marriage in this Photo taken on Oct. 18, 2021. (Allan Stein/Epoch Times)

He’ll stoke the local economy through travel and tourism, and to do this he’ll work toward building a viable partnership with the nearby casino.

“I’m a big advocate of small business,” says Arpaio, who ran a successful travel business with Ava, his wife and best friend of 62 years. She passed away in August.

Arpaio says he’s confident he has the support of conservative voters in Fountain Hills, who back the Blue and support legal immigration. He’s got plenty of name recognition to win in next year’s election, he says.

During his 38-year career as a top federal agent in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Arpaio enforced border laws as the lead official in Texas, Arizona, Central and South America, and Mexico.

He spent 24 years at the border as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous. He also was a street cop in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas.

While on the job in Vegas Arpaio had the rare distinction of apprehending Elvis Presley, caught speeding on a Harley Davidson motorcycle with an unidentified blonde riding in the saddle.

Regarding illegal immigration, Arpaio says he plans to do a book signing at the U.S./Mexican border in Nogales, Arizona, so that people can “learn the truth about immigration.”

“I don’t have a badge and gun anymore. I’ve got this,” Arpaio says, holding up his book like a minister behind his pulpit.

“I’ve been very controversial even before illegal immigration,” Arpaio adds, yet he’s proud of that fact.

As an “equal-opportunity sheriff,” Arpaio has arrested people from all political parties and of all political persuasions.

“I’ll tell you what really bugs me. I’m not going to say I’m sorry,” Arpaio says. “Now, we’ve got a president of the United States who gets a pass. Obama gets a pass.”

“I still talk about the birth certificate. I think they were worried about the birth certificate.”

Arpaio says most likely it was the birth certificate probe that ruined his bid for re-election as sheriff. It most certainly prompted billionaire globalist George Soros to kick in $3 million to help seal Arpaio’s electoral defeat in 2016, he argues.

In 2018, Arpaio was defeated in a bid for U.S. Senate. He then lost the August 2020 primary for Maricopa County sheriff in the primary election, hoping to reclaim his former position.

But everything moves full circle in politics. It’s no different with America’s Toughest Sheriff.

Arpaio views his controversial past as a political curse, and a blessing.

“It’s strange. I’m getting people coming up to me now (to offer their support) more than when I was sheriff. I can’t figure it out.”

One thing he knows for certain, is that he’s “probably the best politician in history.”

“You know why? Everybody says I’m not a politician,” Arpaio says, smiling.

His political opponents “fear me,” he says, “because I say I’m going to do something and I’m going to do it.’

“There is a rest of the story with my life,” Arpaio says with certainty that tells you he is still writing it.

Allan Stein
Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.