By Jennifer McDaniel
Growing up, Jim Metz had always wondered what the world was like beyond Lincoln County – if something more was just beyond the horizon.
So after graduating from Lincoln High School in 2001, Metz moved to Manhattan, where he studied hotel restaurant management at Kansas State University. Little did he know that this experience would resonate so deeply it would shape his life’s journey.
While at K-State, Metz spent a semester in Mazatlan, Mexico, studying tourism and Spanish. While in Mexico, he interned at a resort, where he got a first-hand look into the tourism industry. It was this experience abroad, he said, that became the motivating factor behind a decision to join the Peace Corps a few years later.
“I always had an interest in travel and wanted to see the world,” Metz said. “Peace Corps was a great way to do that. They normally don’t send you to the cities. They send you to the bush.”
For the next two years, Metz saved his money, and eventually applied to the Peace Corps. In 2008, he accepted an invitation from the Peace Corps to serve in Samoa, where he spent two years on the island of Savaii developing sustainable programs that would carry on for years to come. As a development volunteer, he worked shoulder to shoulder with community leaders, educating them on computer literacy, health awareness and organic gardening. Metz also worked with educators to develop and operate an afterschool homework center.
When he wasn’t working in the community, Metz spent his time immersed in the Samoan language and culture, soaking up what he could while living on a family compound.
Among the differences Metz found in Samoa were the seasons, which he described as wet and dry.
“Sixty percent of the rainfall comes in the wet season, and the other 40 percent in the dry season,” he said. “The high temperatures range from about 78 to 85 throughout the year .… In Samoa, there is very little correlation between the weather and the time of year so you couldn’t just look outside to determine if it was July or December.”
Because of the constant warmth, bananas, coconuts, lime and other fruit trees were plentiful, and the local fish markets were always stocked with fresh fish and seafood. While he took advantage of the benefits of living in the Pacific, Metz said he still missed his family and friends, traditional American sports and of course, good barbecue.
Just before his two-year tour ended, Metz decided to extend his contract another year and volunteered with the Samoa Tourism Authority in the capital city of Apia. During this stint, he helped coordinate a surf lifesaving program for hotels after a tsunami struck the islands in September 2009.
“It was amazing that so many people who lived right near the water did not know how to swim,” he said. “This program was an Australian government initiative that gave skills in First Aid and CPR to people who really needed them.”
It was during this time in Apia, Metz met a woman named Faye, who was an assistant manager at one of the hotels. The two met after Metz traveled by bike and boat from Apia to a neighboring island to deliver a document to a tour guide, who had been staying long term at Faye’s hotel.
“When it was obvious I was too tired to ride back, Faye and the tour guide offered me a meal and a drink and the rest is history,” he said.
After visiting Lincoln for a few months in 2012, Metz returned to Samoa to be with Faye and look for a full-time job. However, it wasn’t long before he landed a job as manager of a locally owned resort called Lusia’s Lagoon Chalets. A year later, the two were married, and in 2014, they welcomed their son, Jack, who joined his older sister, Hazel.
“Shortly after Jack was born, we started the discussion about moving to Kansas,” he said. “I was at a point where I wanted to be closer to family, and luckily, Faye was willing to make the sacrifice of moving so far from home.”
Midway through 2014, the couple initiated the visa application process for Faye and Hazel. Once their visas were granted in October and their affairs in Samoa were taken care of, the family moved in December.
“We are very happy to be here, and it’s been great to reconnect with everyone,” he said. “We look forward to being part of the community in which I grew up, and I want to give our kids the same opportunities that I had.”
As he continues getting settled, Metz wasted no time in establishing himself in the local business community. On February 16, Metz began his training as a trust services representative for Citizens State Bank & Trust Co., which has locations in Ellsworth, Lincoln, Delphos, Glasco, and Minneapolis.
“Jim is going to be a great addition to our wealth management program,” said John Thaemert, vice president and manager of the bank’s investment and trust services department. “We have been looking for the right individual to provide investment, wealth management and trust services to our customers in the Lincoln area for some time; when we heard that Jim and his family were moving back to Lincoln, we felt confident we had found that person.”
“We hope to have Jim moved into an office in our Lincoln bank upon satisfactory completion of some fairly extensive training.”