A native of North Carolina, Jim grew up in Burlington and received degrees from UNC at Chapel Hill. His career was in public service, primarily with the Fiscal Research Division staff of the N.C. General Assembly. He retired in 2003, and made his move to the Virginia mountains. He now lives adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 172. He is a board member of the New River Land Trust and a past member of the Floyd County, Virginia Economic Development Authority. His wife, Silvie Granatelli, is a professional potter.