Prior to his mayoral term, Whitaker served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1999 to 2003. In October 2003 he was elected borough mayor, defeating the incumbent, fellow Republican Rhonda Boyles. Whitaker was reelected in 2006 with over 77% of the vote. As mayor, Whitaker was known for supporting spending on quality of life services such as parks and recreation, as well as spearheading a campaign to prevent a drastic reduction in the operations of Eielson Air Force Base due to federal budget cuts.
In 2014, Whitaker was selected to be Alaska Governor Bill Walker's Chief of Staff.
Jim's private sector work includes his role as President of NHG, Inc., a family operated business. It had a fifty two year history. Its core business of retail arts/crafts/gifts was a cornerstone of downtown Fairbanks, Alaska. It owned the historic Lathrop Building; a forty four thousand square foot multi-use structure located at 516 2nd. Avenue. It also owned Arctic Travelers Gift Shop located at the corner of 2nd and Cushman in Downtown Fairbanks. Additionally, he served as President of W&W Inc., a $30 million annually company, where he managed and oversaw all operations of a local contracting and real estate development company most specifically marketing and cost control functions. Technically involved in design and building of wood frame and steel structures, tracking multi-faceted projects from conception, financing, construction, occupancy to final payment. Served as General Manager for MAINCO, a $12 million dollar annual company, overseeing operations of a facilities maintenance company seeking to acquire market share while maintaining tight fiscal control. Technically involved in developing solutions to electrical, mechanical and structural, as it relates to low and high-rise structures. Internationally, Jim served as President of GFA Inc./GFE, a $20 million dollar annual company,
Managed and oversaw all operations of a service/supply company which catered to the needs of foreign contractors doing business in the Middle East. Technically the company was involved with logistics, pipeline and appurtenant facilities construction and maintenance. Contracts were secured with ARAMCO, Petromin, and Williams Brothers. GFA/GFE was a $20,000,000.00 per year organization. Additionally, served as Business Development Director and Personnel Manager for Green Construction Company:
Planned, implemented, and managed a personnel program for a 2,000 man work force for a foreign affiliate of the Green organization doing business in the Middle East. Dealt with virtually all crafts and disciplines associated with the construction industry from top management, down.
Served in various capacities on a myriad of multi-faceted projects:
Field Superintendent/Cost Engineer, Lake DeSmet Dam and Pipeline Project
Field Superintendent, Abqaiq/Dhahran Bridge and Freeway Project
Field Superintendent, Trans-Alaska Pipeline Project
Field Superintendent/Cost Engineer, Brandon Shores Power Plant Project
Field Superintendent, Dam and Tunnel Project
Surveyor, Raystown Dam and Tunnel Project
Surveyor, Two-Lick Creek Dam and Diversion Project
Blasters Certification, State of Wyoming
Hazardous Waste and Superfund Management, Center for Environmental and Occupational Training, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
American Red Cross, Standard First Aid, CPR