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Yelm, Washington

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Yelm, Washington
Pride of the Prairie
Location of Yelm, Washington
Location of Yelm, Washington
Coordinates: 46°56′29″N 122°36′23″W / 46.94139°N 122.60639°W / 46.94139; -122.60639
CountryUnited States
 • TypeMayor-Council
 • MayorJW Foster[1]
 • Total5.72 sq mi (14.81 km2)
 • Land5.71 sq mi (14.79 km2)
 • Water0.01 sq mi (0.02 km2)
354 ft (108 m)
 • Total6,848
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,655.75/sq mi (639.23/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (Pacific (PST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code360
FIPS code53-80220
GNIS feature ID1512817[5]

Yelm (/jɛlm/) is a city in Thurston County, Washington, United States. Its population was 6,848 at the 2010 census. At the beginning of the 21st century, Yelm was the 10th fastest growing city in the state in regard to population.[6]


Cochrane Memorial Park
Cochrane Memorial Park

The word "Yelm" is said to come from the Coast Salish word shelm or chelm, meaning "heat waves from the sun",[7] referring to heat mirages.[8]

The Yelm Prairie was originally inhabited by the Nisqually and provided good pasture for their horses. The first permanent non-indigenous settlers came in 1853 to join the Hudson's Bay Company sheep farmers who already conducted business in the area.

James Longmire, one of the first American settlers, said upon arriving in Yelm:

Having received due notice from the Hudson Bay company not to settle on any lands north of the Nisqually River we crossed the river and went to Yelm prairie, a beautiful spot. I thought as it lay before us covered with tall waving grass, a pretty stream bordered with shrubs and tall trees, flowing through it, and the majestic mountain standing guard over all, in its snowy coat, it was a scene fit for an artist. Herds of deer wandered at leisure through the tall grass.[9]

With the coming of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1873, Yelm began to prosper, having found an outlet for its agricultural and forestry products. Its economic base was further enhanced when an irrigation company was formed in 1916, making Yelm a center for commercial production of beans, cucumbers and berries.[8]

Yelm was officially incorporated on December 8, 1924.[8][10]

During the Great Depression, high maintenance costs and an unstructured water distribution plan bankrupted the Yelm Irrigation Company.


Yelm Community Center
Yelm Community Center

Yelm is located in southeastern Thurston County, adjacent to its border with Pierce County, along the Nisqually River. The city is near the Nisqually Indian Reservation, locate to the northwest on State Route 510, and Joint Base Lewis–McChord on the northeast side of the river. Another major highway, State Route 507, connects Yelm to Centralia and Spanaway near Tacoma.[11]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.69 square miles (14.74 km2), of which, 5.68 square miles (14.71 km2) is land and 0.01 square miles (0.03 km2) is water.[12]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)9,456[4]38.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[13]
2018 Estimate[14]

2010 census

As of the census[3] of 2010, there were 6,848 people, 2,299 households, and 1,712 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,205.6 inhabitants per square mile (465.5/km2). There were 2,523 housing units at an average density of 444.2 per square mile (171.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 81.6% White, 3.3% African American, 1.8% Native American, 2.3% Asian, 0.9% Pacific Islander, 2.8% from other races, and 7.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.4% of the population.

There were 2,299 households, of which 53.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.7% were married couples living together, 17.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 25.5% were non-families. 20.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.95 and the average family size was 3.40.

The median age in the city was 29 years. 36% of residents were under the age of 18; 8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 32.3% were from 25 to 44; 16.1% were from 45 to 64; and 7.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 46.9% male and 53.1% female.

2000 census

As of the census of 2000, there were 3,289 people, 1,216 households, and 807 families residing in the city. The population density was 584.4 people per square mile (225.6/km2). There were 1,323 housing units at an average density of 235.1 per square mile (90.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.17% White, 1.79% African American, 2.22% Native American, 1.73% Asian, 1.16% Pacific Islander, 1.58% from other races, and 5.35% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.35% of the population.

There were 1,216 households, out of which 41.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.2% were married couples living together, 14.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.6% were non-families. 27.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.67 and the average family size was 3.26.

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 32.0% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 31.4% from 25 to 44, 16.6% from 45 to 64, and 10.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $39,453, and the median income for a family was $45,475. Males had a median income of $32,037 versus $24,474 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,865. About 7.9% of families and 10.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.3% of those under age 18 and 6.8% of those age 65 or over.


To a large extent, Yelm acts as a bedroom community for residents working in the surrounding cities of Tacoma, Olympia and Centralia. It also hosts a large number of military families currently or formerly stationed at nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Yelm experienced significant expansion in the decades surrounding the turn of the 21st century. On February 14, 2017, in consultation with city residents, the city council adopted the Yelm Comprehensive Plan update, which clarifies plans and policies for the city's physical, economic and community development over the next 20 years, including utilities, public transportation and parks.[15]

Parks and recreation

Yelm City Park
Yelm City Park

Yelm City Park was donated by Chuck and Wilma Demich in 1950. Located at the corner of SR 507 and Mosman Avenue, it is about one city block in size. It has a kitchen, covered facilities, a playground area, picnic tables, public restrooms and a softball backstop. A number of community events are held there each year, including Prairie Days, Christmas in the Park, Family Fun Day, an annual car show, and the Yelm Lions Easter Egg Hunt.[16]

Yelm has the first Class A Water Reclamation Facility and distribution system in Washington,[17][18] which reclaims all wastewater for local irrigation and recharge streams. The water is also used in Cochrane Park, an 8-acre (32,000 m2) wetland park that includes a catch-and-release pond for rainbow trout.[19]


Yelm has an elected mayor-council government and is a non-charter code city. The city council, the policy-making branch of Yelm's government, consists of seven members elected at-large to staggered, four-year terms. The mayor is elected at-large and serves as the city's chief executive officer. The mayor and council are supported by the city administrator and several advisory boards and commissions. The city administrator, appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council, serves as the mayor's chief administrative officer. As described in the Yelm Municipal Code and Revised Code of Washington, certain responsibilities are vested in the city council and the mayor.[1]

Yelm offers a full range of municipal services, provided by seven departments. Sales tax, 8.7% per dollar spent, is distributed as follows:

  • Washington State: 6.500%
  • Thurston County: 1.400%
  • Yelm: 0.800%


Yelm City Hall
Yelm City Hall

The current mayor of Yelm is JW Foster, who was appointed in 2016 after the resignation of the previous mayor; he had previously served on the city council.[20] He was retained as mayor in the 2017 election.[21]

City Council

The seven-member Yelm City Council represents the needs and interests of Yelm's citizens.[22] The council establishes policy for the city, adopts the annual budget, and represents Yelm's interests on regional boards and commissions.[23]

The council meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 6:00 PM in the Council Chambers in the Yelm Public Safety Building at 206 McKenzie Street SE. The public is invited, and time is provided at the beginning of meetings for public comments, questions and concerns. Meetings are streamed live on the Internet, and past meetings may be viewed online.

The council's current agenda and past meeting minutes are posted in the city's document library. The upcoming agenda is posted no later than the Friday before the meeting.

City Administration

The Yelm post office serves the surrounding unincorporated Thurston County residential communities in the Bald Hills of Lake Lawrence and Clearwood.

Firefighting services for the cities of Yelm, Rainier and surrounding unincorporated areas are provided by the Southeast Thurston Fire Authority.


Public schools in Yelm belong to the Yelm School District. Its elementary schools are Fort Stevens, Lackamas, McKenna, Millpond, Southworth and Yelm Prairie. Its secondary school system includes Yelm Middle School, Ridgeline Middle School, Yelm High School, and Yelm Extension School.[24] The private Eagle View Christian School is also in Yelm.[24]

See also


  1. ^ a b Mayor Ron Harding. City of Yelm. Accessed on February 8, 2012.
  2. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Washington: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2019". United States Census Bureau. May 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  6. ^ "City of Yelm Industrial District" (PDF). The City of Yelm. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  7. ^ Bright, William (2004). Native American placenames of the United States. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 580. ISBN 978-0-8061-3598-4. Retrieved April 11, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c History of Yelm. City of Yelm. Accessed on July 14, 2010.
  9. ^ "Diary of James Longmire". October 10, 1853. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  10. ^ "City of Yelm: Thurston County." Financial Statements and Federal Single Audit Report. Washington State Auditor's Office. January 21, 2009. Report No. 1002188. Page 27. Accessed on July 14, 2010.
  11. ^ Washington State Department of Transportation (2014). Washington State Highways, 2014–2015 (PDF) (Map). Olympia: Washington State Department of Transportation. Puget Sound inset. Retrieved August 12, 2020.
  12. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
  13. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  14. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 7, 2019.
  15. ^ "City of Yelm Comprehensive Plan". The City of Yelm. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  16. ^ Yelm Park. City of Yelm. Accessed on July 14, 2010.
  17. ^ Skillings, Thomas. "Little Yelm sets big environmental goals – and meets them." November 16, 2000. Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. Accessed on July 14, 2010.
  18. ^ Reclaimed Water Facility. City of Yelm. Accessed on July 14, 2010.
  19. ^ Cochrane Memorial Park. City of Yelm. Accessed on July 14, 2010.
  20. ^ "Mayor's Office". The City of Yelm. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  21. ^ Kollar, Andrew; Wagar, Michael (November 8, 2017). "Foster Retained as Mayor of Yelm". Nisqually Valley News. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  22. ^ Rosane, Eric (June 16, 2020). "Former Council Member EJ Curry Appointed to Fill Vacant Yelm City Council Seat". Nisqually Valley News.
  23. ^ "Yelm City Council". City of Yelm. Retrieved June 28, 2020.
  24. ^ a b "Yelm Schools." Accessed on June 29, 2012.

External links

This page was last edited on 4 February 2021, at 00:24
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