Selected Demographics of Walla Walla, Columbia, and Umatilla Counties
by Nicole Holst
 

Walla Walla County, Washington:

Population
The total population of the county in 1998 was 54,600. This number includes:
City of Walla Walla 29,440
Unincorporated Walla Walla County 16,490
City of College Place 7,110
City of Waitsburg 1,225
City of Prescott 335

While the median age in Walla Walla County is 34.29, age 0-12 accounts for 20.9% of the total population, and 55-75+ accounts for 22.3%.  Age distribution is fairly average in the county, though there is a significant population over 65 due to the ideal retirement setting and mild climate.  In fact, the percentage of typically young couples (age 25-34) having children is 13.0%--smaller than the percentage of people 65-75+, which is at 12.6%.  From 1996-1998, all age sectors of the population increased except for people age 25-34.  This can be attributed to the fairly isolated location and burgeoning economies in larger cities.  In 1998, there were 28,098 males and 26,502 females in the county, a fairly typical breakdown for American society.

Graphs of these population statistics can be found on the homepage of the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber of Commerce consists of almost 400 members dedicated to enhancing and securing the development and well being of the Walla Walla Valley.  This organization is responsible for identifying and researching local, state and federal issues.  With regard to current federal issues, the Chamber opposes the drawdown of the Snake and Columbia River reservoirs as well as removal of the dams.  The Chamber supports the concepts of Y2K reform legislation facing U.S. Congress as well as the possibility of an Environmental Impact Statement for restarting the Fast Flux Test Facility.  For further contact or information on particular issues contact the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce:
29 E. Sumach St.
P.O. Box 644
Walla Walla WA 99362
509-525-8850

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Race
In 1997, the breakdown of ethnicity was as follows:
White 51,254
Latino 9,070
Asian, Pacific Islander 1,344
Black 821
Indian, Eskimo and Aleutian 581

The number of Latinos in the county increased from 7,263 in 1993 to 9,070 in 1997, demonstrating a considerable growth rate.  This is due largely to immigration, as farming continues to attract Latinos to the area.  On the other hand, African Americans only saw a very minimal increase from 783 to 821 in the same years.  While Walla Walla County cannot boast of an incredibly diverse population, there are a variety of cultures present.  The considerable Latino population can be largely attributed to the large agricultural community surrounding Walla Walla.  A definite influx of migrant and also permanent farm laborers are a constant population in the county.  Information on population ethnicity and other county facts can be found on the homepage of the Port of Walla Walla.

A 1990 survey entitled Selected Economic and Demographic Data for Counties of the Interior Columbia River Basin (ICRB) found that Walla Walla County has a slightly higher than average level of education.  For a population of 30,400 over the age of 25 in the county:
High school graduates 26.7%
Some college-no degree 24.7%
Associate degree 8.9%
Bachelors degree 12.7%
Graduate or professional degree 6.1%

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Community Resources
Community resources in the Walla Walla Valley are numerous and diverse.  They include three hospitals, more than 120 physicians, various financial services including ten banks and several credit unions, ten local radio stations, eleven hotels/motels, eighty churches and over 345 civic organizations.  There are six public elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools in Walla Walla.  In addition, College Place has its own elementary and middle school, and seven private and parochial schools exist.  Walla Walla College, Walla Walla Community College and Whitman College all foster an active theater, art, and academic community.  The Washington State Penitentiary is also located in Walla Walla and is a large employer and overall economic benefit.  For those of Sicilian origin, there is an active Italian Heritage Association of Walla Walla.  Other points of interest in the region are the Whitman Mission, Fort Walla Walla, and several wineries.  For further information on how to contact specific utilities and services or and school, refer to the Chamber of Commerce relocation website.

Government
Walla Walla has a Council-Manager form of government in which the citizens elect seven council members who then hire a City Manager.  The City Manager, who has been Scott D. Staples since 1992, is in charge of the fire and police departments, libraries, parks and recreation, public safety, public works and other support services.  As the chief executive officer of the City, the Manager also hires personnel, enforces laws, prepares the budget and supervises the City's daily operations.  Other towns in Walla Walla County have a mayor-council form of government as defined by township rules.

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Columbia County, Washington:

Population
Columbia's total population in 1997 was 4,200. This includes:
Dayton 2,553
Unincorporated 1,268
Starbuck 259

Economy
The Northern border is the Snake River, and the Southern border is the Oregon stateline.  Landscape ranges from rolling wheatfields to wilderness areas in the Blue Mountains.  Agriculture is a major industry in Columbia County.  Specifically, wheat, peas and asparagus are grown in abundance.  Other large employers include Seneca Foods Corporation, Bluewood Ski Resort, Dayton General Hospital, Columbia County and the Dayton School District.  There are two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school in the county.

Race
Race Breakdown 1996:
White 3,874
Latino 463
American Indian, Eskimo and Aleutian 27
Asian and Pacific Islander 16
Black 3

Education
Of the total 2,782 people 25 years and older, in 1996:
Percent high school graduates 71.8%
Percent college graduates 15.1%

While this is a considerably high percentage of high school graduates, the percentage of college graduates is relatively low.  This is probably due to the fact that agricultural jobs often do not require higher education and are plentiful in the region.  More statistics can be found at the U.S. Census Website.

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Government
Dayton has a Mayor/Council form of government.  Residents elect the mayor, currently John Vachal, for a four-year term.  Responsibilities include carrying out legislative directives and appointing various city officials.  The City Council acts as the legislative body and therefore passes all ordinances and resolutions.  The mayor is then responsible for following through on policies set for the city by the Council.

Health Care
Health care is provided by the Columbia County Hospital District and includes a hospital and the Columbia Family Clinic.  There is ample lodging and dining in Dayton, including the four-star restaurant Patit Creek.  Also available are a nine-hole golf course, an Olympic sized swimming pool and 11 churches.  Recreation possibilities abound around Dayton, such as fishing, hiking, skiing or snowboarding at Bluewood Ski Resort, boating and biking.  Further information on community resources can be found on the City of Dayton website.  For information on Columbia County contact:
Dayton Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 22
Dayton WA 99328
1-800-882-6299

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Umatilla County, Oregon:

Population
This county is located in the northeast corner of Oregon, covering 3,231 square miles with a total population of 66,000 in 1997. This number includes:
Unincorporated Umatilla County 32,445
City of Pendleton 16,915
City of Hermiston 11,340
City of Milton-Freewater 5,300

In 1990, 56.7% of the total population lived in urban areas while 43.3% lived in rural areas.  The principle economy in Umatilla County includes agriculture, food processing, forest products, recreation, aggregate production and power generation.  The largest manufacturers in Milton-Freewater include Watermill Foods, Stadleman Fruit Co., American Fine Foods Inc., and Blue Mountain Growers.  The considerable rural population is due to the agricultural economy of the region . In 1997, there were 20,171 people under 20 years (30.9%) and 8,520 people 65 years and older (13.05%).  These percentages are comparable to Walla Walla County, where the population of 65+ accounts for 12.6% of the total.  The sex breakdown results in 33,358 males and 31,919 females.

Race
Race breakdown, 1997:
White 61,117
Latino 7,770
American Indian, Eskimo and Aleutian 2,216
Asian and Pacific Islander 740
Black 474

Latinos (of any race) increased from 5,429 in 1990 to 7,770 in 1997, while the black population decreased from 817 in 1990 to 474 in 1997.  Furthermore, there were 611 black males and only 206 black females in 1990, making the largest difference between sexes in a specific ethnicity.  Even in 1997, there was still three times the amount of black males than black females.  This random influx can be attributed to the absence of pre-established black community and therefore a lack of available economic and social opportunities.  Sectors of the economic profile for Umatilla County, such as manufacturing and trade, are typically dominated by a male work force.  Further information on the social characteristics, including the 1990 census, can be found at http://govinfo.kerr.orst.edu/cgi-bin/buildit?3s-059.orc.

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Education
The same Selected Economic and Demographic Data for Counties of the ICRB included this data on education in Umatilla County:
High school graduate 32.7%
Some college-no degree 21.3%
Associate degree 7.8%
Bachelors degree 9.0%
Graduate or professional degree 4.4%

These percentages are less than those for Walla Walla County, most likely due to the lack of a strong academic community.  The colleges in Walla Walla draw people of higher academic standing for positions on faculty and staff.  Due to its close proximity, residents of Milton-Freewater have access to Blue Mountain Community College and Walla Walla Community College.  There are three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school in Milton-Freewater with a total enrollment of 1,940.  In fact, the largest employer in town is the Milton-Freewater Unified School District.  The regional hospital for the area is in Walla Walla, which is about 10 miles to the northeast.

Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber of Commerce is quite active as an organization of professional and business people working together to promote business and the overall quality of life in Milton-Freewater.  To contact the Chamber of Commerce:
505 Ward St.
Milton-Freewater OR 97862
541-938-5563

Attractions
Milton-Freewater is home to the Frazier Farmstead Museum, the Seven Hills Winery and The Gallery, an ongoing exhibition of local art.  Points of interest in Umatilla County include the yearly Pendleton Round-Up, McNary Dam and Recreation Area, North Fork Umatilla Wilderness Area, Tollgate-Spout Springs Recreation Area, Harris Park, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation's Wildhorse Casino.

The County Seat can be reached at:
216 SE 4th St.
Pendleton OR 97801
541-276-7111
Contact Umatilla County for more information.
 

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