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About Us

About La Crosse County

La Crosse County is home to 118,274 residents, located in the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin where the mighty Mississippi, Black, and La Crosse Rivers meet, and lies within the boundaries of the ancestral land of the Ho-Chunk Nation.  Known as the Coulee Region, the land was not reshaped by Holocene glaciation events and therefore boasts stunning valleys and towering bluffs that provide ample recreational opportunities like trout fishing on the 236 miles of trout stream, kayaking and canoeing in the rivers and lakes, hiking and biking on the 963 acres of parks and forests, and camping on one of more than 400 sites in the two County campgrounds. La Crosse County offers great sense of community, with an active and engaged population including a vibrant art scene, live music and performance, and diverse community festivals and events.  For more information about community events, link to https://www.explorelacrosse.com/ for more information.

La Crosse County is home to three post-secondary educational institutions and two major medical centers. Educational services, health care, and social assistance is the top industry in the county followed by retail trade; arts/entertainment/recreation, and manufacturing. 

While riverboats travel the Mississippi with stops at the Port of La Crosse, La Crosse Regional Airport provides service to the area with flights to and from Chicago, Minneapolis, and Detroit.  Amtrak Empire Builder Route runs each day providing access to Chicago and Minneapolis.  Interstate 90 runs through La Crosse County, providing easy access to the capital city, Madison, as well as Minneapolis/St. Paul in Minnesota.

 

History/Settlement

The region was first inhabited by the people of the Ho-Chunk Nation.  While the Ho-Chunk people were forcibly relocated by the United States Government in the 19th century due to colonization, many remaining tribal members returned to parts of their homeland in the 1870s and their families remain here today.

La Crosse County has experienced waves of immigration since the 1800s starting with French fur traders.  The first permanent establishment was built by Nathan Myrick in 1941 and European Americans began settling in Prairie La Crosse, now known as La Crosse. Because of easy transportation via railroad and waterway, low taxes, and friendly policies toward immigrants, settlers moved to La Crosse beginning with Swiss Mormons in 1844 (who moved to Texas a few years later), Germans in 1850, followed by people from Norway and the Netherlands.  Like other regions, La Crosse County became home to numerous African American families after the end of the Civil War. George Coleman Pogue, who participated in the Olympic Games of 1904, and George Edwin Taylor, the first African American to run for president in 1904, are two of the most well-known historical African American figures from the area.   Most recently, Hmong refugees relocated to La Crosse County in the late 1970s through the early 1980s, contributing to the warm and vibrant culture of La Crosse County.

 

Government

La Crosse County was established as a government in 1851 and today is governed by 29 county board supervisors who oversee seven standing committees: Veterans, Aging and Long Term Care; Health and Human Services; Judiciary and Law; Planning, Resources and Development; Public Works and Infrastructure; and Executive.  Tara Johnson has served as the County Board Chair since 2011 and Steve O’Malley has been the County Administrator since 2003.  County Board elections are held every two years.

The government of La Crosse County employs almost 1,300 people in many types of positions including mechanics, nurses, social workers, technology, jail staff, nursing assistants, maintenance, administrative professionals, public health workers, attorneys, and deputies. 

 

Highlights

  • La Crosse County is in the top 10 of Wisconsin Counties for tourism-related business activity.
  • In the program’s first three years, neighborhood revitalization grants have leveraged over $6 million in private investments for new housing.
  • La Crosse County is a politically vibrant area demonstrated by high voter turnout; in the 2016 presidential election voter turnout was over 82%.
  • La Crosse County Government has the first publicly owned solid waste system to achieve Green Tier status.  Forty tons of useable materials are retrieved from the household hazardous materials facility every year and given away free. Biogas generated at the County landfill provides energy to the Gundersen Health System Onalaska campus, the only 100% energy independent health campus in the nation.  The county’s waste to energy program creates energy for 10,000 homes and diverts more than 47 tons of refuse from the landfill.
  • Through alternative fuel production, La Crosse County produces at least twice as much fuel as it uses through the Waste-to-Energy and Gas-to-Energy Programs.
  • La Crosse County Government is financially stable with an Aa1 rating by Moody’s Investors Service - only five other Wisconsin counties have a higher rating. 
  • La Crosse County boasts the 6th lowest tax levy per capita among 72 counties.

 

Services

In 2018, the Government of La Crosse County received over $143 million for public services.  State and Federal operating grants, along with contributions comprise over $35 million and are designated, in part, for human services, court operations, public safety, solid waste, health, aging, libraries, and general government.   Over $34 million dollars were collected in property taxes – almost 24% of the total revenue sources. More than $54 million was collected in charges for services and almost $13 million was collected in sales tax. Over $7 million dollars was received from a variety of sources such as grants, contributions, interest and disposal of property or equipment.

Some of the exceptional services include:

  • Nine assisted living facilities and two long-term care centers provide housing and services for older adults or people living with disabilities.
  • 282 miles of road and 69 bridges are maintained.
  • The Harold E. Craig fleeting site owned by La Crosse County represents 23% of the fleeting capacity in the Port of La Crosse and on average accounts for 200,000 tons of commodities annually.
  • Nine parks and forests provide 963 acres of recreational opportunities.
  • Goose Island Campground is the largest county campground in Wisconsin with more than 400 sites.  


Last year:

  • 106,000 meals were served through the Senior Nutrition Program.
  • Over 100 foster homes provide a safe place for children.
  • Mobile Crisis Team provided emergency mental health assistance over 7,000 times.
  • 96% of 9-1-1 calls were answered in 10 seconds or less.
  • Over 100 individuals participated in Treatment Courts.
  • Over 3,000 restaurant and health inspections are completed.
  • Over 2,000 immunizations were given by the Health Department.
  • Veterans Service Office assisted veterans in receiving almost $30 million in federal benefits.
  • Over 450,000 items were checked out through the La Crosse County Library System.

 

Size and Location

La Crosse County is located in the Southwestern part of Wisconsin where the Mississippi, Black, and La Crosse Rivers meet.  The Black River empties into the world famous Mississippi River north of the city, and the La Crosse River flows into the Mississippi just north of the downtown area. La Crosse County is comprised of 307,274 acres and is 480 square miles in size. The county is 25 miles at its widest point and 25 miles at its longest point. 

 

Population

In 2015, La Crosse County had a population of 118,274 which is projected to grow by 5 percent and be 122,764 in 2025.  There are two cities, four villages, and 12 towns within the La Crosse County.  The City of La Crosse is the largest city in the county with a population of 51,818. 

 

Logo

The government of La Crosse County is proud of its innovative and collaborative culture which is reflected in the logo.  The logo is contemporary in design yet pays homage to our past.  The double curve is taken from the former county seal, the year of origin represents the past, the curve of the seal arcs upward toward the LC, representing progress and forward movement, the blocks represent strength and stability, and the soft green suggest the abundant natural beauty of La Crosse County.