Jim Jenkins is a fifth generation cattle rancher from Custer County, Nebraska where he serves as the managing partner for his family’s agricultural operations. For the past 30 years, Jim has been involved as a business entrepreneur, founding, co-founding or working in key roles for over a dozen companies.
After graduating from Principia College in Elsah, Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in political science and graduate work in business at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business in Chicago, Jim worked in the restaurant and real estate industries in Boston, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio.
Jim worked on President Ronald Reagan’s transition team as an assistant to domestic policy advisor Edwin Harper who served as Deputy Director, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Assistant to the President.
Jim lived and worked outside Nebraska long enough to appreciate the diversity of places and persons in this great nation, but it was to his home state where he and his wife decided to raise their family. Returning to his family’s homestead in Callaway, Nebraska in 1996, Jim founded Wild West, LLC, the holding company for the Whiskey Creek Steakhouse Restaurant group.
Each of Jim’s enterprises have been integrated into the state’s economy, impacted by state and federal policies, and solidly anchored in Nebraska’s culture of self-sufficiency and family values. Whiskey Creek steakhouse was invited by the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska Beef Council to assist with the development and marketing of the flat iron steak. Whiskey Creek became the first restaurant chain in the country to put the new steak on its menu. After selling Whiskey Creek, Jim and several members of his management team founded Skeeter Barnes, a steakhouse and barbeque concept, which currently operates two locations in Nebraska.
Jim was appointed by Governor Mike Johanns to the Nebraska Ethanol Board and reappointed for a second term by Governor Dave Heineman. He was elected chairman of the Nebraska Ethanol Board in 2006 and 2007.
Jim believes successful government starts on the local level where people work together, not as Republicans and Democrats but as citizens committed to solving problems. Jim served for nine years on the Custer County Planning Commission, helping draft the initial zoning regulations for the county. He was recruited as a landowner liaison for several proposed wind development projects in Nebraska and was hired by Nebraska Public Power District to serve in a similar capacity for 11 proposed wind sites throughout the state.
Jim is a past board member of the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition; a member of the Center for Grassland Studies Advisory Committee; a past board member of the Nebraska Cooperative Development Commission; and a past member of the University of Nebraska President’s Advisory Committee. Jim is a longstanding member of the Nebraska Cattlemen.
In 2001, Jim received the Champion of Small Business award from the University of Nebraska’s Business Development Center for his role in founding Wild West, LLC. Under Jim’s management, the Jenkins ranch has been featured in the Nebraska Farmer Magazine, the Omaha World Herald, the Kearney Hub, the Custer County Chief and Beef Magazine for its innovative grazing and cattle management practices. Jim is a frequent speaker on entrepreneurial, restaurant and agricultural topics.
Jim serves as a lay leader at the Callaway United Methodist Church. He is married to Julianna Jenkins, an attorney in Broken Bow, and together they have three adult children, Whitney, Peter and Haley.