Harlan, IA

Established in 1858 • population 5,282

“A Growing Tradition”


Established in 1858 • population 5,282Location

    In Shelby County, Iowa, located 10 miles north of Interstate 80 at the intersection of U.S. Hwy 59 and Iowa Hwy 44 in the heart of southwest Iowa’s picturesque countryside.

Utility & Telecommunication providers   

    Water: Harlan Municipal Utilities.

    Gas: Harlan Municipal Utilities.

    Electricity: Harlan Municipal Utilities.

    Phone Service:  (three providers) Harlan Municipal Utilities - Farmers Mutual Telephone - Iowa Telecom all offer 100% digitally switched calling. They offer dozens of state-of-the-art calling features including wireless, cellular and numerous other features not available in many parts of the U.S.

Internet Service: (three providers) Harlan Municipal Utilities offers Cable Modem direct fiber to the premise (select areas of Harlan). Service speeds range from 1MB to customer applications for 50MB or more; Farmers Mutual Telephone provides 56kbs & DSL from 128 kps to 8 mbs and Iowa Telecom provides 56k to 1.024 mbs DSL service.

    Cable Service: (two providers) Harlan Municipal Utilities (up to 228 channels) and MediaCom offer up to 78 channels as well as DMX.

    Cellular Service: Cellular One, Verizon & FMCTC wireless.

Municipal Services

    Council/Mayor government

    Comprehensive city plan: yes

    City zoning ordinance in effect: yes

    County zoning ordinance in effect: yes

    Subdivision ordinance with design standards in effect: yes

    Number of volunteer fire department personnel: 40 plus fulltime fire chief

    Fire insurance class in city: 5

    Fire insurance class outside city: 5

    Police protection: eight person Harlan Police Department.

    Industrial waste pickup service: yes

    Percentage of city streets hard surfaced: 100%


    Youth attend either the  Harlan Community Schools  (K-12)  or the Shelby County Catholic School (preK - 8). Shelby County schools are among the State’s leaders in combining a top-quality academic education, with a wide variety of successful extracurricular activities.  For more information see the Quality of Life tab in your Resource Guide.

Business & Industry

    Explosive growth See the tab section "Labor and Business" for a full page breakdown.


    Nineteen denominations provide religious fullfillment in the community.

Bragging Rights

    In 1997, Harlan joined an elite group of technologically advanced communities when it constructed a Metropolitan Area  Network, utilizing ATM technology, which provides high-speed data access, running at 155 Megabits per second, which is 100's of times faster than a traditional modem supporting voice, video, and data traffic simultaneously.

    It is the home to a tremendous high school academic and athletic tradition with locally initiated student scholarships totaling over $175,000 and scholarship endowments in excess of $500,000;     over 23 trips to the state championships in football championships since 1972, as well as recent championships in girls golf (1), boys baseball (2), boys track (1) and wrestling (1). 


    Its arts and music program includes one of the finest Jazz and Marching Band programs in the state, consistently ranking in the top two in their class. In 2002 - 2003 it was a banner year for HCHS qualifying for the  Class 3A football playoffs, second place in Class 3A basketball championship, first place in Class 3A boys track and first place in Class 3A baseball.

    Other community highlights include:

    • Tiny Lund Festival, which honors the late Tiny Lund who won the Daytona 500 in 1963 and was one of the top 50 NASCAR drivers

    • Home of former Gov. Nelson Kraschel

    • Home of the Shelby County Speedway

    • Harlan Muncipal Airport's first in the nation flight breakfast and community spirit that lead voters to increase their taxes as well as provide private donations to support industrial and community expansions (Stamp Aquatic Center, Harlan Municipal Airport, Veterans Auditorium and Harlan Library).

Recreational Tourism


    The  Norman D. Stamp Aquatic Center is the jewel of the over 84 acres of Harlan parks. Pioneer Park has a 1.5 mile walking/jogging trail and a 10,000 sq. ft. handicap accessible Dream Playground for toddlers to teens.

    A  multifaceted city recreation program with league play for volleyball, softball, basketball, swimming and baseball.

    Six baseball/softball diamonds at J.J. Jensen Park, Little George Lake's fishing and ice skating plus two 9-hole golf courses and 8 tennis courts add to the list of opportunities.

    The McDowell Fitness Center offers a variety of aerobic exercise activities and equipment.


    The Shelby County Historical Museum buildings  offer four separate buildings featuring the history of Shelby County.


    Public hunting - within the county are two native wildlife areas and  over 400 acres of public hunting.


    The platting of the territory by Dr. A.T. Ault, in August, 1858, for a new town to be known as Harlan, marked the downfall of the rival cities of Simoda and Shelbyville. In 1859, voters determined that the new Courthouse should be built in Harlan and thus the legacy of Simoda and Shelbyville ended. It is believed that Ault, a Republican, who came from eastern Iowa either knew U.S. Senator James Harlan (R-IA, 1855-1861) personally or through correspondence and named the city after the Senator.

Local Government

The City of Harlan

    Mayor‑council form of government. The council consists of six council members elected for terms of four  years. The mayor is elected for a term of two years. The Mayor appoints the Police Chief and a part-timeTreasurer, and City Attorney.

Public safety

    Twenty-four-hour service is provided by a full time Police Chief and eight police officers. Dispatch and communication services are provided by the Shelby County Communication Center.

Harlan Fire and Rescue Department

    Staffed by forty (40) volunteer fire fighters and a fulltime fire chief, all of whom respond to emergency calls.  Within the department there are ten EMT’s, eight First Responders, four Expert Rescuer technicians, and seven Fire Fighter I’s. The department responds to approximately 55 calls per year. Harlan’s insurance rating is 5 (highest rating for a volunteer fire dept.).

Emergency medical transit

    Twenty-four-hour service is provided by Medivac Ambulance, which has four ambulances and a wheel chair van. The 24-person staff includes 12 paramedics and 7 EMT-I's and 5 EMT-B.

Gas, electric, water system

    Municipally owned and operated by the Harlan Municipal Utilities. The five trustees are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council.

Cable TV

    Municipally owned and operated by the Harlan Municipal Utilities.  MediaCom also operates a  cable system in Harlan.

Technology Infrastructure

    For more information on Harlan's tremendous technology offerings see the Technology Tab.


    Municipally owned and operated by the Harlan Municipal Utilities’ Board of Trustees.  Iowa Telecom and Farmers Mutual Telephone also operate phone systems.

Harlan at a glance

Airport    4,100 ft. runway

Cable TV    Harlan Municipal & MediaCom

College    Iowa Western Community College

Conference facilities

Veterans Memorial    1,200 persons

Therkildsen Activity Center    270 persons

Others include ; Myrtue Medical Center (Auble - 120 person, audio/visual equipped); 59'er Motel - 45; Forrest Lodge Motel - 40; Harlan Country Club - 200; High School Aud. - 680; Harlan Library - 80; Mickel's Restaurant - 100; American Legion - 120 and also church meeting rooms, some seating over 400.

Churches    19

Chiropractors    4

Dentists    5

Doctors    8

Financial Institutions    4

Fire Station    40-member volunteer, with fulltime fire chief

Golf Courses    2, 9-hole

Highways, U.S. & State    U.S. Hwy 59 & Iowa Hwy 44

Hospital    52-bed, primary & skilled care

Interstate 80    10 miles south

High Speed Internet Access    4 (HMU, FMCTC, Iowa Telecom & MediaCom)

Lake    Prairie Rose, 210 acres

Motels, 3    87 rooms

Newspaper    Tribune & News-Advertiser

Optometrists    3

Paramedics/EMT's    24

Police    8 member staff offers 24-hr., 7-day a week coverage

Parks    7 (84 acres)

Population, city    5,282 (county-13,173)

Public Library    1, highest usage per capita in Iowa

Radio     KNOD-FM, 105.3

School enrollment (K-12)    1,580 + Parochial 388

Shoppers    PennySaver & Rocket

Swimming Pools    1 (outdoor)

Tennis Courts    8

Telephone providers  (local)    3 (Harlan Mun. Utilities, Farmers Mutual & Iowa Telecom)

Type of Government    Mayor/City Council

Veterinarians    3

Walking Trail     1& 1/2  mile, Pioneer Park



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