The 1997 median family income in Lewis County was $25,000. In 2022 it is $56,000. Chehalis was reported at $74,000. The median home price back in 1997 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom was $125,000. Today that similar house will cost in the mid-$300,000s.
In 1997, I was a recent graduate from WSU, married with three children. There were no jobs in this county for a graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, Lewis County has not been big on a college education.
For whatever reason, in the past 25 years, blue collar skills education (plumbers, electricians, carpentry, mechanical) has been scaled back in the public schools. I can remember metal, wood and farm shop classes from Winlock High School.
Centralia College offers some but not enough. I am not advocating a particular trade or degree. I am advocating we invest in our community so younger generations can support their families.
Without a skilled and educated workforce, Lewis County will nor draw in family wage jobs.
Cardinal Glass came in and the wage offering was not enough to raise a family. Even $17.50 per hour welding will not support a family.
I saw the writing on the wall and rejoined the military. I was lucky to be stationed for 13 of 20 years at Fort Lewis and was able to raise a family. The daily commute was not fun, and neither was the time missed away on deployments. But I made a choice in order to support the family. The additional military benefits of healthcare and shopping added to the annual income.
The standard of living has increased over the past 25 years, but you must live within your means.
And if you want to live better, you need to increase the means. I am not here to lay blame on any party or group, but I do not think the county leadership over that time has done enough to improve our communities.
Life is about change and adjustment, and if you do not adapt to the conditions, you will be left behind. Now inflation sucks, and I am not immune, but my budget has room. I would not consider myself rich is economic terms, but in the past 25 years, my income in ’97 has increased five to six times, where the median income in Lewis County has only doubled. I earn a good living, but I also have two other income streams, my military retirement and VA disability. My effective tax rate is 11%, which I think is fair. I own my own home. All three of my children own their own homes and earn much more than the current median household Income for Lewis County.
So maybe their mother and I raised them to look ahead.