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Polk County, Florida

Polk County, Florida
Polk County courthouse in Bartow
Seal of Polk County, Florida
Map of Florida highlighting Polk County
Location in the state of Florida
Map of the United States highlighting Florida
Florida's location in the U.S.
Founded February 8, 1861
Named for James K. Polk
Seat Bartow
Largest city Lakeland
 • Total 2,011 sq mi (5,208 km2)
 • Land 1,798 sq mi (4,657 km2)
 • Water 213 sq mi (552 km2), 10.6%
Population (est.)
 • (2013) 623,009
 • Density 868/sq mi (335/km²)
Congressional districts 9th, 10th, 15th, 17th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Website .net.polk-countywww

Polk County is a county located in the State of Florida. As of the 2010 census, the population was 602,095.[1] Its county seat is Bartow,[2] and its largest city is Lakeland.

Polk County comprises the Lakeland-Winter Haven Metropolitan Statistical Area.

In 2010, the center of population of Florida was located in Polk County, near the city of Lake Wales.[3]

Polk County is home to one public university, one state college, and four private universities. One Fortune 500 company—Publix Super Markets (106 in 2012)—has headquarters in the county.


  • History 1
    • Recent history 1.1
  • Geography 2
    • Adjacent counties 2.1
  • Demographics 3
    • 2010 Census 3.1
    • 2000 Census 3.2
    • Languages 3.3
  • Metropolitan Statistical Area 4
  • Economy 5
  • Government and politics 6
  • Education 7
    • Universities and colleges 7.1
  • Library Cooperative 8
    • Cooperative member libraries 8.1
    • Services 8.2
    • Polk County Historical & Genealogical Library 8.3
  • Media 9
    • Newspapers 9.1
    • Radio 9.2
    • Television 9.3
  • Transportation 10
    • Airports 10.1
    • Highways 10.2
  • Communities 11
    • Cities 11.1
    • Towns 11.2
    • Village 11.3
    • Unincorporated communities 11.4
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14
    • Government links/Constitutional offices 14.1
      • Special districts 14.1.1
      • Judicial branch 14.1.2
    • History 14.2
    • Miscellaneous 14.3


U.S. President James Knox Polk, namesake of the county

The first people to call Polk County home arrived close to 12,000 years ago during the last ice age as the first The Carolinas to form the Seminole Indian Tribe.[5]

For around 250 years after Ponce De Leon arrived on the peninsula, the Spanish ruled Florida. In the late 17th century, Florida went through an unstable period in which the French and British ruled the peninsula. After the American Revolution, the peninsula briefly reverted to Spanish rule. In 1819, Florida became a U.S. territory as a result of the Adams-Onis Treaty.

While Florida gained statehood in 1845, it was not until 1861 that Polk County was created from the eastern half of Hillsborough County. It was named in honor of former United States President James K. Polk,[7] whose 1845 inauguration was on the day after Florida became a state.

Following the Civil War, the county commission established the county seat on 120 acres (0.49 km2) donated in the central part of the county. Bartow, the county seat, was named after Savannah, GA with military honors, and promoted posthumously to the rank of Brigadier General. The original name of the town was Fort Blount. Several other towns and counties in the South changed their name to Bartow. The first courthouse built in Bartow was constructed in 1867. It was replaced twice, in 1884 and in 1908. As the third courthouse to stand on the site, the present structure houses the Polk County Historical Museum and Genealogical Library.

Recent history

Growth in Polk County is driven by proximity to both the Tampa and Orlando metropolitan areas along the Interstate 4 corridor. Recent growth has been heaviest in Lakeland (closest to Tampa) and the Northeast areas near Haines City (nearest to Orlando). From 1990-2000, unincorporated areas grew 25%, while incorporated areas grew only 11%. In addition to developing cottage communities for commuters, there is evidence in Haines City of suburban sprawl into unincorporated areas. Despite the impressive growth rate, the unemployment rate of Polk has typically been higher than that of the entire state.[8] In August 2010, the county had an unemployment rate of 13.4% compared to 11.7% for the entire state.[8]

During the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season, three hurricanes, Charley, Frances and Jeanne all tracked over Polk County, intersecting in a triangle that includes the city of Bartow.[9]

Winter Haven was best known as the home of Cypress Gardens, a theme park that closed Sept. 23, 2009.[10] The city is now home to the theme park Legoland Florida, built on the site of Cypress Gardens. Country musician Gram Parsons was from a wealthy family in Winter Haven. Winter Haven was also home to the first Publix supermarket circa 1930, and Lakeland, Florida is where Publix's Corporate Offices are located.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,011 square miles (5,210 km2), of which 1,798 square miles (4,660 km2) is land and 213 square miles (550 km2) (10.6%) is water.[11] It is the fourth-largest county in Florida by land area and fifth-largest by total area.

Adjacent counties

In addition, at its northeast corner, Polk County touches Orange County, Florida at a quadripoint called Four Corners, Florida; Lake and Osceola Counties lie in between.


2010 Census

U.S. Census Bureau 2010 Ethnic/Race Demographics:[17][18]

In 2010, 11.6% of the population considered themselves to be of only "American" ancestry (regardless of race or ethnicity.)[17]

There were 227,485 households out of which 27.34% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.10% were married couples living together, 13.67% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.96% were non-families. 23.82% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.96% (3.39% male and 7.57% female) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.05.[18][20]

In the county the population was spread out, with 23.5% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 24.0% from 25 to 44, 25.6% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39.8 years. For every 100 females there were 96.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.7 males.[20]

As of 2013, the median income for a household in the county was $43,606. 10.5% of families were below the poverty line. The owner-occupied housing median value was $120,200. Also, as of 2013, 18.2% of Polk County resident have a bachelor's degree or higher, and 10.5% were born outside of the United States.[21][22]

2000 Census

As of the [24]

There were 187,233 households, of which 29.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.40% were married couples living together, 12.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.30% were non-families. 24.10% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.10% have someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the county the population was spread out, with 24.40% under the age of 18, 8.30% from 18 to 24, 26.40% from 25 to 44, 22.50% from 45 to 64, and 18.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 96.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $36,036, and the median income for a family was $41,442. Males had a median income of $31,396, versus $22,406 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,302. 12.90% of the population and 9.40% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 19.10% were under the age of 18 and 8.10% were 65 or older.


As of 2010, 81.80% of all residents spoke English as their first language, while 14.34% spoke Spanish, 0.70% French Creole (mostly Haitian Creole,) and 0.51% of the population spoke French as their mother language.[25] In total, 18.20% of the population spoke languages other than English as their primary language.[25]

Metropolitan Statistical Area

The United States Office of Management and Budget has designated Polk County as coextensive with the Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area.[26] The United States Census Bureau ranked the Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area as the 87th most populous metropolitan statistical area and the 89th most populous primary statistical area of the United States as of July 1, 2012.[27][28]


Polk County's economy is supported by a workforce of over 275,000 in 2010.[29] Traditionally, the largest industries in Polk's economy have been phosphate mining, agriculture, and tourism.[30] Professional baseball, especially major league spring training has historically been a major generator of tourist traffic for Polk County. Today only the Detroit Tigers remain for Spring Training. Additionally the single-A Lakeland Flying Tigers play in Joker Marchant Stadium when the Tigers return from spring training.[31]

Government and politics

The executive and legislative powers of the county are vested in the five member Board of County Commissioners. While the county is divided into five separate districts, the election is held countywide.[32] Each term lasts for four years with odd numbered districts holding elections in presidential election years, and even numbered districts holding elections two years later. Like all elected officials in the state, county commissioners are subject to recall. The commissioners elect a chairman and vice-chairman annually. The chairman then selects the chairs of each committee who work with the county manager to establish the policies of the board. The commission meets twice a month- generally every other Tuesday. Additional meetings take place as needed, but must be announced per the Florida Sunshine laws.[32]

Among the most important duties of the county commission is levying taxes and appropriations. The Ad Valorem millage rate levied by the county for county government purposes is 6.8665.[29] The commission is responsible for providing appropriations for other countywide offices including the sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector and supervisor of elections. The county and circuit court systems are also partially supported by the county budget, including the state attorneys and public defenders. A portion of the county's budget is dedicated to providing municipal level services and regulations to unincorporated areas, such as zoning, business codes, and fire protection. Other services benefit both those in municipalities and in unincorporated Polk County such as those that provide recreational and cultural opportunities.

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democratic Other
2012 52.9% 46.1% 1.0%
2008 52.5% 46.3% 0.6%
2004 58.6% 40.8% 0.6%
2000 53.6% 44.6% 1.8%
1996 45.3% 44.4% 10.3%
1992 45.2% 35.3% 19.5%
1988 66.4% 33.0% 0.6%


Polk County Public Schools serves the county.

Universities and colleges

Library Cooperative

The Polk County Library Cooperative was formed October 1, 1997 through an Interlocal Agreement between the 13 municipalities with public libraries and the Board of County Commissioners. The Cooperative enables the city-owned and operated public libraries to open their doors to all residents of the county, including those in the unincorporated area.[33]

Cooperative member libraries

  • Auburndale Public Library[33]
  • Bartow Public Library[33]
  • Dundee Public Library[33]
  • Eagle Lake Public Library[33]
  • Fort Meade Public Library[33]
  • Latt Maxcy Memorial Library[33]
  • Haines City Public Library[33]
  • Lake Alfred Public Library[33]
  • Lake Wales Public Library[33]
  • Lakeland Public Library[33]
  • Lakeland Main (Downtown)[33]
  • Larry R. Jackson Branch (North Lakeland)[33]
  • eLibrary (South Lakeland) a joint project between City of Lakeland and Library Cooperative[33]
  • Mulberry Public Library[33]
  • Polk City Community Library[33]
  • Winter Haven Public Library, Kathryn L. Smith Memorial[33]
  • Justice Stephen H. Grimes Law Library (County operated non-circulating special collection)[33]


  • Provides the structure for members to give seamless countywide library services[33]
  • Coordinates activities, information and funding for member libraries[33]
  • Facilitates Interlibrary Loans[33]
  • Delivers materials between member libraries five days a week[33]
  • Operates a Wide Area Network linking all member libraries to shared resources and services[33]
  • Provides e-mail to and designs/houses web pages for members[33]
  • Manages e-rate program for members[33]
  • Synchronizes continuing education and staff development opportunities for members[33]

Polk County Historical & Genealogical Library

History of Library

The Polk County Historical & Genealogical Library was first established in 1937. It opened to the public in January 1940. The library was first located in the office of the County Attorney and was housed in a metal bookcase. Since then the library has been housed in several different locations within the old Polk County Courthouse. In 1968 the library hired its first full-time employee. By 1974 the library added a second employee and was moved to a new location on Hendry Street. In 1987 the library relocated once again, back to the 1908 Courthouse. The library then went under a ten-year renovation process, which led to an expansion that included all three floors of the eastern wing of the Courthouse. As of 2013, the library is located in the east wing of the Historical Courthouse in Bartow. It is governed by the Polk County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) and administered by the Neighborhood Services Department and the Leisure of Services Division. The library holds one of the largest Genealogical and Historical collections in the Southeast United States. [34]

Collections and Services

The Polk County Historical & Genealogical Library currently holds over 40,000 items in the collection. The collection includes books, microfilm and periodicals that include information about the history and genealogy of the entire eastern United States. The selection of materials related to the history of Polk County contains local newspapers dated back to 1881, aerial photography to 1938, city directories to 1925 and property tax rolls to 1882. There are four full-time staff members available for assistance at the library. The library also offers local obituary searches and basic looks ups using email.[35]





Callsign City Format
WLLD Lakeland Rhythmic Contemporary
WLKF News Talk Information
WPCV Country music
WWBF Bartow Classic hits music and Bartow High School sports
WLVF Haines City Southern Gospel music





  • Limited Access Highways
    • Interstate 4 - This interstate highway cuts across the northern part of the county, entering from Tampa and Plant City in the west, bypassing Lakeland, Auburndale, and Haines City, and heading northeast toward the greater Orlando area.
    • Polk Parkway - With endpoints at I-4, this toll road traverses primarily around Lakeland, intersecting with several major routes in southern Lakeland and additionally providing access to Winter Haven and Legoland via SR 540, and Auburndale via US 92. It exists as SR 570.
    • Central Polk Parkway (Under Development)
    • Heartland Parkway (proposed)
  • U.S. Highways
    • US 17 - This U.S. highway enters Polk County from the southwest, bypassing Fort Meade on its way to Bartow, and eventually through Eagle Lake into Winter Haven. North of Winter Haven, in Lake Alfred, it joins with US 92 to form a concurrency that continues north and east through Haines City and Davenport toward the Orlando area.
    • US 27 - This primary thoroughfare in eastern Polk County bypasses several cities, including Frostproof, Lake Wales, Dundee, Lake Hamilton, Haines City, and Davenport. Its interchange with I-4 is a gateway to the Orlando area.
    • US 92 - This route essentially parallels I-4 to the south over its journey through Polk County. From Plant City to the west, it enters Polk County and crosses Lakeland, emerging and continuing on through Auburndale. It joins US 17 in Lake Alfred.
    • US 98 - This route crosses northwest to southeast across Polk County. Entering from Pasco County, it cuts through Lakeland and leads to Bartow. In Bartow, it begins a concurrency with US 17 through Fort Meade, where it jogs over to meet US 27 in Frostproof. US 98 is concurrent with US 27 as it exits Polk County to the southeast.
    • US 192 - This highway has its western terminus at US 27 along the border of Polk and Lake Counties. It runs eastward from this junction to provide access to Disney World, the Orlando area, and the Space Coast.
  • Major State Roads
    • State Road 17 - This scenic highway winds parallel to the east of US 27, running through the downtown areas of Lake Wales, Dundee, Lake Hamilton, and Haines City.
    • State Road 33 - It stems northward from Lakeland and leads to Polk City, and continues northward through the Green Swamp.
    • State Road 37 - Also called South Florida Avenue, this road connects Mulberry to southern Lakeland.
    • State Road 60 - The major route of southern Polk County and the county's largest state road, it connects Mulberry and Bartow with Lake Wales on its route from coast to coast in Florida.
    • State Road 540 - This road leads from Highland City in the Lakeland area to Winter Haven as Winter-Lake Road, then jogging over at US 17 and providing access to Legoland and US 27 as Cypress Gardens Boulevard.
    • State Road 542 - This road travels through central Polk County, connecting downtown Winter Haven to US 27 and Dundee.
    • State Road 544 - This road leads first from Auburndale to Winter Haven as Havendale Boulevard, and continues north and east as a scenic route to southern Haines City.
    • State Road 559 - This route straddles Lake Ariana in Auburndale and connects this city with Polk City, also providing access to I-4.


Municipalities of Polk County

According to the 2010 Census, just under 38% of the population of the county lives in one of Polk's seventeen incorporated municipalities.[37] The largest city, Lakeland, has over 97,000 residents and is located in the western edge of the county. The other core city of the metropolitan area, Winter Haven, is located in the eastern part of the county and has 34,000 residents. The county seat, Bartow, is located southeast of Lakeland and southwest of Winter Haven and has over 17,000 residents. The cities of Bartow, Lakeland, and Winter Haven form a roughly equilateral triangle pointed downward with Bartow being the south point, Lakeland the west point, and Winter Haven the east point.[38][39]

The other major cities in the county with a population over 10,000 include Haines City, Auburndale and Lake Wales. Haines City is in the northeast part of the county and has over 20,000 residents. Auburndale is located northwest of Winter Haven and Lake Wales is around 16 miles east of Bartow.




Unincorporated communities

See also


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ "Centers of Population by State: 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Ancient Native". HOTOA. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  5. ^ a b c "Polk County History". Polk Counjty Historical Association. Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  6. ^ Weibel, B. "Trail of Florida's Ancient Heritage". Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  7. ^ Publications of the Florida Historical Society. Florida Historical Society. 1908. p. 33. 
  8. ^ a b "Unemployment Rate Polk County, FL". The Ledger. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  9. ^ Bossak, Brian H. (April 2005). X" Marks the Spot: Florida, the 2004 Hurricane Bull’s-Eye""" (PDF). Sound Waves. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  10. ^ The Ledger - retrieved August 25, 2011
  11. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990".  
  12. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  13. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g "Polk County: SELECTED SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  18. ^ a b c d "Polk County Demographic Characteristics". Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Hispanic or Latino by Type: 2010 -- 2010 Census Summary File 1". Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  20. ^ a b "Polk County: Age Groups and Sex: 2010 - 2010 Census Summary File 1". Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Polk County, Florida Fact Sheet". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2014-04-18. 
  22. ^ "Florida Fact Sheet". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2014-04-18. 
  23. ^ "Demographics of Polk County, FL". Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  24. ^ Polk County Demographic Profile (Central Florida Development Council) - retrieved June 1, 2007
  25. ^ a b "Modern Language Association Data Center Results of Polk County, Florida". Modern Language Association. Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  26. ^ "OMB Bulletin No. 13-01: Revised Delineations of Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Micropolitan Statistical Areas, and Combined Statistical Areas, and Guidance on Uses of the Delineations of These Areas" (PDF).  
  27. ^ "Table 1. Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012" ( 
  28. ^ "Table 2. Annual Estimates of the Population of Combined Statistical Areas: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012" ( 
  29. ^ a b "Polk County Profile". Enterprise Florida. Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  30. ^ "Polk's Profile". Polk County Board of County Commissioners. Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b "Board of County Commissioners". Polk County Website. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Polk County Cooperative
  34. ^ "About Us". Polk County Library Cooperative. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  35. ^ "Overview". Polk County Library Cooperative. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  36. ^ "Historical and Genealogical Library". Polk County Board of County Commissioners. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  37. ^ "Census: Polk's Population Larger, More Diverse". The Ledger. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  38. ^ "Publication 04-39-087" (PDF). University of Florida. p. 5. Retrieved 2010-10-17. 
  39. ^ "'"Map of Bartow, Lakeland, Winter Haven showing 'triangle. Retrieved 2010-10-17. 

External links

Government links/Constitutional offices

  • Polk County Government / Board of County Commissioners official website
  • Polk County Clerk of Courts
  • Polk County Supervisor of Elections
  • Polk County Property Appraiser
  • Polk County Sheriff's Office
  • Polk County Tax Collector

Special districts

  • Polk County Public Schools
  • South Florida Water Management District
  • Southwest Florida Water Management District
  • Lake Region Lakes Management District "Canal Commission"

Judicial branch

  • Public Defender, 10th Judicial Circuit of Florida servings Hardee, Highlands, and Polk Counties
  • Office of the State Attorney, 10th Judicial Circuit of Florida
  • 10th Judicial Circuit of Florida


  • (2001). 325 pp.In the Midst of All That Makes Life Worth Living: Polk County, Florida, to review of Brown, Canter, Jr.
  • (2005)None Can Have Richer Memories: Polk County, Florida 1940–2000online review of Brown, Canter, Jr.
  • Polk County Collection on the RICHES Mosaic Interface


  • Polk Partners, founded by the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, Central Florida Development Council, and The Ledger.
  • Polk County Democrat local newspaper for Polk County, Florida fully and openly available in the Florida Digital Newspaper Library
  • Polk County Guide online guide to attractions & events in Polk County, Florida

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