James' interests turned to public service at an early age, largely due to the careers of his grandparents. His maternal grandfather was a city councilman and his paternal grandmother was a city auditor during his childhood. From them, James inherited a strong sense of civic duty and understanding of true servant leadership. Additionally, James grew up in a blue-collar household. James' father was a truck driver for their county highway department and his mother works in an assisted care facility. James went on to pursue his public interests by enrolling in the Political Science/Criminal Justice program at The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. James was the first person in his family to go to college.
Upon graduation, James served as an intern for the Ohio Senate. This internship nurtured his passion for public service. James then returned to college to where he received his MS degree in Education with an emphasis in Human Services from Purdue.