Pierce County Spotlight
Originally heavily reliant on timber-based industries, Pierce County now boasts one of the state’s most diverse and active economies, with steady growth in industries like manufacturing, government, education, health, leisure, and business services, as well as wholesale and retail trades. Home to the state’s third-largest city, Tacoma, as well as the rugged and beautiful Mount Rainier, Pierce County hosts diverse environments that attract visitors and residents alike. Mount Rainier, the state’s largest dormant volcano, is one of Washington’s most recognizable icons, attracting many tourists to its hiking trails, abundant wildlife, and stunning glacial scenery.
Pierce County also boasts the state’s largest military base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Located slightly south of Tacoma, Fort Lewis was initially used as a training facility during World War I and expanded during the Second World War to house prisoners of war. McChord Air Force Base, initially designated as a B-25 bomber training base, was combined with Fort Lewis in 2005 to eliminate redundancy in services. Today, JBLM employs a significant portion of Pierce County residents and has sparked population growth in surrounding suburbs.
Following a racketeering scandal involving the Pierce County Sheriff in 1978, voters demanded that the government implemented widespread structural changes. In 1980, voters approved a “Home Rule” Charter intended to reduce corruption within the county political system. The charter abolished the three commissioner system, replacing it with a seven member council and elected official that ensured legislative and executive separation. In direct response to the racketeering scandal, the charter enabled the council to appoint the position of county clerk and sheriff. Pierce County remains the only county in the state to have an appointed rather than elected sheriff.