Kenai Peninsula voters last elected him to office in 1979 as mayor of Soldotna.
Now Tom Bearup, 67, is running for Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor.
Between his time as the Soldotna mayor and now, Bearup has run for multiple offices in Arizona — most recently for Pinal County Arizona Sheriff in 2012.
The paper trail that ties Bearup, an Arizona native, and his family between the two states is extensive and shows that Bearup has spent much of his adult life split between the two states. However, his most recent attempt at landing a public office in Arizona has led some to questions about his authenticity as an Alaskan, Bearup said.
“If you choose to live here, you should be an Alaskan,” he said. “If you have lived some place else and come here, you’re making that decision to come here and our time here has been about 15 years total.”
It’s not the first time his residency qualifications have been questioned. He tried to run for Arizona House of Representatives in 1984, but hit a snag when it came to residency requirments. Arizona requires candidates for state legislature to be state residents for three years and resident of the county they are seeking election from for at least one year immediately preceding election.
The Bearups had moved back to Arizona in 1982. Bearup said it was unclear whether the three required years of state residency needed to be immediately before the election or if the time could be cumulative. It was determined that Bearup could not run because the time needed to be three uninterrupted years prior to election.
Bearup was born in Arizona and moved to Alaska in the mid-1970s where he got a job as a cop with the Soldotna Police Department. He met his wife Adele, who is from Soldotna, and the two have nine children, 33 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
In 1979 Bearup was elected as Soldotna mayor, but he did not finish his term and returned to Arizona in 1982, after a brief time in Anchorage.
Bearup said he was nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, but didn’t get the position, so they decided to move to Arizona.
In Arizona, Bearup got his real estate license and broker’s license. He became an advance man for former President Ronald Reagan, an administrative job where he organized the president’s visits to various locations, he said.
In 1994, the Bearups founded Family Bible Fellowship and Academy, a non-profit ministry corporation.
From 1993 to 1997 Bearup worked for the Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff’s Office as chief executive officer under Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of racial profiling in federal court in 2013. Arpaio has also been accused of mishandling sex crimes.
“I left (the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office) because I didn’t agree with some of the things that were going on,” he said. “And whenever you don’t agree, you have two choices you either leave or you stay and turn your head. I didn’t want to turn my head.”
Bearup said the people that died in custody, the major lawsuits and the feeling that he was “intimidated to cover some things up” lead to his decision to quit.
In 2000 and 2004 Bearup ran for sheriff of Maricopa County against Arpaio and lost both times.
In 2006, Bearup said he and Adele moved back to Alaska full-time. The couple owns property at Mile 91 of the Sterling Highway where, in their garage, they have conducted religious mission services and hosted functions for veterans.
The suicide of their son, who was a veteran suffering from Posttraumatic stress disorder, encouraged the Bearups to “choose joy” in their life and help veterans in Alaska, he said.
“You can see me today,” Bearup said. “This is why I’m motivated. If I can get through this kind of stuff, I’m going to bring some tenacity to (the mayor’s job) to find solutions to work hard.”
Bearup said he thinks he has an “excellent chance” of being elected as borough mayor.
“It’s up to the voters,” he said. “They’re going to pick whoever they want. It’s incumbent upon me to go out … to earn the respect and the vote of the people.”
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at email@example.com.