Saturday, March 13, 2021
Former Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup has died after battling lung disease. He was 84.
The retired Hughes/Raytheon executive beat the odds to win three terms as a Republican in Democrat-dominated Tucson. A technocrat, Walkup worked to structurally stabilize the city’s budget but set the stage for downtown revitalization, although much of the development happened after he left office.
Walkup loved the role of mayor, whether it was dressing in a three-piece suit for a State of the City address or wearing a turn-of-the-century get-up complete with a top hat for celebrations at the historic downtown train station.
"The joy of the job," he once said, "is being with people."
Walkup’s perpetual optimism drew jeers from his critics, but he was always able to deliver lines like “Tucson is the greatest city in the United States” with sincerity. Republican Kathleen Dunbar, who served with Walkup on the Tucson City Council from 2001 to 2005, once described Walkup as the “mayor from central casting.”
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, who served with Walkup after her 2007 election to the Tucson City Council, called Walkup “a born statesman” who “always strived to create the best Tucson possible.”
“His leadership on issues ranging from economic development, water security, and transportation positioned Tucson for a strong recovery out of the Great Recession,” Romero said. “He always had a vision to create a lively, bustling downtown for Tucsonans to eat, work, live, and play. His advocacy in helping secure a TIGER grant to build the modern streetcar laid the groundwork for the thriving downtown we see today.”