After more than 25 years in Florida's legislature, Bean is setting his sights on Washington, D.C.
Although Florida Senator Aaron Bean '89 has held numerous political positions since his time at Jacksonville University — now taking aim at a spot in U.S. Congress — his first opportunities in politics came during his time as an undergraduate finance student.
Bean recalled traveling to Tallahassee with the late Dr. Fran Kinne, Jacksonville University’s president at the time, to lobby the legislature for additional resources for Florida’s private colleges and universities. The experience planted a seed for Bean and showed him that a career in politics and public service could be possible.
“It made me think ‘I can do that,’” he said.
Dr. Kinne left an impression on Bean, as she has with many who have come through Jacksonville University’s gates, carrying her legacy and lessons with him for years following his time at JU. She taught him the importance of giving back to the community as they performed together at a Jacksonville retirement home — Bean sang and Dr. Kinne played the piano.
Now, Bean works in that same building in Tallahassee he and Dr. Kinne visited nearly 30 years prior as the outgoing President Pro Tempore of the Florida State Senate, the second highest rank in the Senate. He’s been in the legislature since 2000, serving in the Florida House of Representatives until 2008, then joined the senate in 2012 representing the 4th district, encompassing Nassau County and parts of Duval County.
This fall, Bean is hoping for another victory: the race for the 4th Congressional District of Florida. It would make him the first Jacksonville University alumnus to hold national office.
“I want to leave our country stronger and more prosperous for the next generation,” he said. “It’s what our parents did for us.”
The newly-drawn 4th Congressional District would include much of the same territory Bean represented as a State Senator, with the addition of Clay County and new areas of Duval County, which now includes Jacksonville University’s Arlington campus.
It wouldn't be Bean’s first experience on the national political stage. Following graduation from JU in 1989, Bean worked for U.S. Senator Connie Mack in Washington, D.C., where he learned the ins and outs of government.
During his time in the Florida House of Representatives, Bean advocated for legislation related to business owners, veterans, education, and economic growth. He worked his way up to serving as lieutenant for then-House Speaker Marco Rubio and chaired the Duval Delegation in his final term.
He’s been recognized by numerous organizations as a legislative advocate for their causes, including the Boys & Girls Club, The Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation, Florida Council on Aging, The Monique Burr Foundation, and the ALS Association Florida Chapter, amongst countless others. He’s also a 2020 recipient of JU’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
FROM PRE-MED TO POLITICS
At JU, Bean became the president of the Student Government Association, the first of many election victories. But that’s not what he set out to do as a freshman. He initially came to JU to become a doctor, majoring in pre-med, but quickly realized the sight of blood made him queasy, and that he had a greater passion for helping people in another way: through legislation and standing up for them as their elected official.
Outside of class and leading student government, Bean could be found on the sidelines of sporting events as a Jacksonville University cheerleader. That’s where he met his wife, Abby, also a JU alumna class of 1989.
“JU gave me so many chances to engage, lead, observe, do and learn,” Bean said. “Maybe you get one of those opportunities at a large school, but JU’s size allows for so many opportunities.”
Almost 10 years after his graduation from JU, he ran for Fernandina Beach’s city commission and won.
A few years later, Bean became the city’s youngest mayor at 30. His son Bradley, who currently serves on the commission, hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps as he runs for mayor of Fernandina Beach this year. Winning would mean breaking his dad’s record as the youngest mayor in the city’s history.
“We couldn’t be prouder of him,” Bean said.
Even though he chose to pursue political office, Bean always held on to his background in finance and business. State legislators make a part-time salary, which means in addition to serving in Tallahassee, Bean always had to balance a second job. He has excelled in several industries throughout his career as a banker, working in real estate and insurance, owning a mini-golf course, and as a part-time auctioneer.
He still moonlights as an auctioneer, in addition to his role at UF Health Jacksonville in business development. He’s a member of the Florida National Auctioneers Association, calling auctions at countless benefits since he started in 2010. He even showcased his rapid-fire calling skills in a recent political ad for Congress.
He’s worked across all kinds of industries in his career, but the one that he’s never strayed from is public service.
“I do love serving our most-vulnerable citizens of Northeast Florida,” he said. “I enjoy fighting for the underdog