Updated Census Numbers Show Yelm’s Population Surpassed 10,000 People

By Daniel Warn / dan@yelmonline.com
Posted 8/24/21

A recent update by the U.S. Census Bureau to the 2020 census count put Yelm’s population over 10,000 people.

With 10,617 being the actual population counted, the number shows a 35.5 percent …

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Updated Census Numbers Show Yelm’s Population Surpassed 10,000 People

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A recent update by the U.S. Census Bureau to the 2020 census count put Yelm’s population over 10,000 people.

With 10,617 being the actual population counted, the number shows a 35.5 percent increase over the census-counted 2010 population of 6,848.

“The thing is, for many of us who have lived here for 25 years or more, we have long anticipated that growth,” Yelm Mayor JW Foster told the Nisqually Valley News. “We’ve anticipated it. We’ve planned for it, prepared for it. And in the process, we provided a … safe, healthy, happy home for all who wish to come here to live or to visit. We’re pretty proud of that.”

Foster said the growth was predicted by the Washington State Growth Management Act, saying that Yelm is actually expected to grow to a city of 20,000 people by the year 2045.

While this projection may be alarming for some now, Foster said people would have also been alarmed to hear of the current rate of population increase seen today.

“If you told people 25-30 years ago, when the city was a little one of 3,000 people, that by 2021 you’re going to be a town of 10,000-plus, they would have been horrified at the thought,” Foster said. “And yet people still come to live here because they consider Yelm to be a small town. They say Yelm has maintained that small-town feel. And, again, we’re proud of that.”

He said the city has spent the last 20-plus years planning for this kind of population increase and has provided safer streets, sidewalks and trails for the citizenry that have led to improved and well-maintained recreational facilities.



“I think Yelm is doing great right now and is poised to continue to be a great community to live in during the years to come,” Foster said.

Foster worked to put the growth into context.

“Remember, too, that it’s not just that Yelm is growing,” he said. “The city of Yelm is only 5 square miles, but we’re surrounded by southeast Thurston County and south Pierce County, and those areas are growing as well. The people who live there use Yelm as their service hub. They come here to take advantage of our stores and shops and services, which is great because that drives our economy in a very supportive, sustainable way.”

He said the now 10,000 people who live in Yelm are not solely responsible for footing the bill for all the service improvements the city has made over the years. It’s the people from outside city limits who spend their tax dollars in Yelm that help pay for the city’s improvements, he said.

“We appreciate that, especially those of us who have lived here 25 (or) 20 years ago,” Foster said. “One of the things we would complain about is we would have to go somewhere else to get anything. … Now, as businesses have become successful, based on the population growth, we have those services and more. We’re finding that people come from all over the South Sound region to Yelm to enjoy the things that we provide.”

Ultimately, Foster said he thinks Yelm is going to keep doing what Yelm does best.

“We’re a happy little place,” he said. “We have strong schools, and a community that supports the military, and the military supports us. It’s really been a happy, collaborative community to live in. I love it.”

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