You can thank Jim Donovan’s parents for his work ethic. They owned a grocery store – Bill’s Jack & Jill – in Sargent and the whole family kept it running.
His dad handed him a broom in the 5th grade and gave him his first real job of sweeping the floors. In high school, when he lived for football, basketball, track and baseball, he still remembers the long nights after practice and dinner when he and his dad would return to the store to clean the meat department.
Sundays, he and his three sisters, were the only ‘employees’ on the schedule. While he didn’t grow up wanting to own a grocery store, he did learn the foundations of business.
Jim left Sargent for Chadron State College and also joined the Army National Guard, serving eight years. Chadron not only gave him his education – earning degrees in management and marketing – but the chance to meet his wife, Janet Neuharth, a fellow Chadron State Eagle who happened to live in the same duplex as Jim.
After graduation, Jim took a salesman’s job at Nebraska Typewriter, and his personality, humor and sales skills caught the attention of a banker and customer in Hay Springs, who urged him to apply for an opening at First National Bank of Chadron.
“He said I’d be good at it, so I trusted him and applied.”
Good advice. Jim spent the next four years as a loan officer for real estate and consumer loans.
Then another friend in banking suggested he apply for a job in Geneva. Jim was fairly content in Chadron, but Geneva offered the chance to advance, and proximity to the Youth Rehabilitation Treatment Center and the Women’s Prison in York where Janet could find opportunities to apply her master’s degree in counseling and background in criminal justice.
So they moved seven hours east and Jim became manager of Cornerstone Bank in Geneva, a role he would keep for the next 18 years. He and Janet raised their three children and became Fillmore Central Panthers through and through.
When 2015 brought up a turning point in his career and the opportunity to try something new, he looked to insurance, which he had considered in the past.
He liked the similarities between the two industries, such as working closely with and helping a variety of people, the emphasis on customer service and knowing that no two days on the job would be alike.
“I like meeting a lot of people. One of my friends told me I could be friends with the President and friends with the person who cleans the White House and I guess I could. I like having a wide array of friends. I just like people.”
(Except Don Beebe? See Jim’s Little Known Fact below…)
Licenses: Property and Casualty, Crop
Community Service: Fillmore Central School Board, Fillmore County Development Corporation, Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Geneva Lions Club, and the Farmers and Ranchers College Committee.
Family: Wife, Janet. Sons, Bill and Lance; daughter, Alex, and grandson, Boston.
Hobbies: Sports. Camping.
Little Known Fact: “I broke Don Beebe’s nose playing town team basketball.” (As in the Don Beebe, who played football at Chadron State one year before playing for the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers. He is considered one of the fastest players in NFL history and was the first to be a member of six Super Bowl teams.) “He turned around and ran right into me,” Jim explains.