It is the poorest county per capita outside of the southeast of the state.
Before white settlement, all of the land that forms modern-day Starke County and adjacent LaPorte County to the north belonged to the Potawatami Indian nation. These Indians were forcibly removed to Kansas by the United States government in 1838, and many died on what has been called the Trail of Death.
County Council: The county council is the legislative branch of the county government and controls all the spending and revenue collection in the county. Representatives are elected from county districts. The council members serve four year terms. They are responsible for setting salaries, the annual budget, and special spending. The council also has limited authority to impose local taxes, in the form of an income and property tax that is subject to state level approval, excise taxes, and service taxes.
Board of Commissioners: The executive body of the county is made of a board of commissioners. The commissioners are elected county-wide, in staggered terms, and each serves a four year term. One of the commissioners, typically the most senior, serves as president. The commissioners are charged with executing the acts legislated by the council, the collection of revenue, and managing the day-to-day functions of the county government.
Court: The county maintains a small claims court that can handle some civil cases. The judge on the court is elected to a term of four years and must be a member of the Indiana Bar Association. The judge is assisted by a constable who is also elected to terms of four years. In some cases, court decisions can be appealed to the state level circuit court.
County Officials: The county has several other elected offices, including sheriff, coroner, auditor, treasurer, recorder, surveyor, and circuit court clerk. Each of these elected officers serve terms of four years and oversee different parts of the county government. Members elected to any county government position are required to declare a party affiliation and be a resident of the county.
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Population by year
As of the census of 2000, there were 23,556 people, 8,740 households, and 6,450 families residing in the county. The population density was 76 people per square mile (29/km²). There were 10,201 housing units at an average density of 33 per square mile (13/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.52% White, 0.22% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.20% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.74% from other races, and 1.05% from two or more races. 2.18% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 25.2% were of German, 17.5% American, 11.0% Irish, 8.2% Polish and 6.4% English ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 8,740 households out of which 33.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.40% were married couples living together, 9.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.20% were non-families. 22.40% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.10.
In the county the population was spread out with 26.80% under the age of 18, 8.00% from 18 to 24, 27.80% from 25 to 44, 23.50% from 45 to 64, and 13.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 98.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.40 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $37,243, and the median income for a family was $42,355. Males had a median income of $32,779 versus $21,071 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,466. About 8.80% of families and 11.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.10% of those under age 18 and 10.10% of those age 65 or over.