Jim Sheehan was born and raised on Long Island, NY. He attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, graduating in 1973 with a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and a teaching certificate. He is married with two grown children and two grandchildren. Sheehan retired as a Vice President at Marsh & McLennan Companies in late 2013 after working there for more than 40 years.
Sheehan began his involvement in swimming as a timer at a children's summer league meet. He became a certified official in New Jersey Swimming in the mid-1980's and worked at various levels until he officiated at his first nationals at a Juniors in Irvine in 1990 and first Olympic Trials in 1992. He subsequently served as meet referee at the 2006 US Open and 2008 Short Course Nationals. Internationally, Sheehan officiated at 2009 World Championships in Rome and the 2012 Olympics in London. He also served as meet referee for the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships and the 2014 Junior Pan Pacific Championships
Sheehan first became involved in swimming governance as the New Jersey Swimming Officials Chair from 1997 to 2004. He served as a member of the USA Swimming Officials Committee from 1998 to 2010, the last four years as its Chair. He has also served on the USA Swimming Board of Directors as Vice President of Program Operations from 2010 to 2014 and since 2014 as Chair of the USA Swimming Board of Directors.