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James Nicholson

James Nicholson

President and Chief Executive Officer North Valley Bank Zanesville, Ohio Class A Director Sector Representation: Banking Current term ends December 31, 2026

March 2024

Climbing the career ladder as an accountant in central Ohio, Jim Nicholson realized that continued advancement with his employer would mean a move, with a young family, to New York City.

“I didn’t really want to go raise a family there,” says Nicholson, who began looking for other opportunities closer to home.

His search led to a succession of leadership roles in banks in central and northern Ohio, until 2015 when he assumed his current position as president and CEO of Zanesville, Ohio-based North Valley Bank.

Although he’s spent most of his career in the state working in smaller financial institutions, Nicholson has an unusual breadth and depth of experience. He’s worked for both publicly traded and privately held banks and for banks that bought other banks or were themselves acquired, as well as for a bank that combined with another in a merger of equals.

As a community bank with about $310 million in assets, North Valley lives with the challenges that come with operating on a modest scale.

“It's very difficult for a smaller bank right now,” Nicholson says. “The expenses that you have to incur, whether it's the technology or compliance or affording a management team, you need to continue to grow to be able to leverage those costs over a large group base.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Nicholson emphasizes deep involvement in the seven cities and towns where North Valley has retail banking operations.

“It's very simple,” he says. “It's what role do we or can we play in helping our communities grow? That's everything from providing the financial services to volunteering. We obviously financially support community projects. But we really see a big part is partnering with small businesses and helping them achieve their dreams, helping the area to prosper and grow.”

The youngest of five children, Nicholson was raised in Lancaster, Ohio. He attended Muskingum University, about 20 minutes from Zanesville, graduating in 1984 with a degree in accounting. Before beginning his business career, Nicholson played a season as a shortstop in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league baseball system. He and his wife have three sons, including twins, who are both in banking.

Nicholson is currently working to help channel economic momentum created by a major computer chip manufacturing complex rising from the farmland east of Columbus, at the edge of the region served by North Valley.

To address a regional housing shortage triggered by the development, North Valley and other local banks funded a study that highlighted a need to break a traditional pattern of building homes one or two at a time in favor of larger residential developments.

If we provide housing, Nicholson says, “we think everything else would take care of itself.”

It’s that kind of on-the-ground perspective that Nicholson brings to his service on the Cleveland Fed board, which began in January 2024.

He describes his contribution as “providing that firsthand look to early signs of stress or early signs of growth or demand occurring out there.”

It’s a collaborative endeavor that Nicholson says suits his style. He describes himself as a good team player: “I just want a seat at the table,” he says. Title or rank doesn’t matter, “as long as you can have an impact and contribute.”