Staff spotlight: Carmen Montes hopes to highlight small-town stories

Small Towns

With a background in television journalism and a future in digital marketing, Carmen Montes is looking to use her skills to shine a light on the rural communities of Nebraska.

Carmen recently joined the Center for Rural Affairs as a communications associate and is in charge of digital marketing, including social media and website management. She makes sure this work engages and educates, and she also helps share the Center’s message, as well as news and events hosted by the organization.

“I’m interested in the new challenges this role offers and am looking forward to being a small part of the bigger picture that the Center plays in rural Nebraska and beyond,” Carmen said.

With 10 years of experience covering general news and in-depth stories, Carmen started her career in central Nebraska. While there, she launched the first Spanish-language news webcast, which reached communities across the state and beyond. After seven years at the station, she was offered an opportunity to work for a top 20 market duopoly in Portland, Oregon, that housed the affiliates of ABC News and Univision.

Carmen’s dedication to her craft led to her receiving the Silver Award from the Nebraska Broadcasters Association for Best In-Depth Story or Investigative Story/Series “Refugees in Nebraska” and an Emmy nomination from the Northwest Regional Chapter for her team’s news program on Licenses for All, a legislative measure.

As a bilingual journalist, the focus of her reporting was on issues that affected the Latino and minority communities in Oregon and southwest Washington, something she hoped to incorporate into her next adventure upon returning home.

“After moving from Oregon back to Nebraska and taking a year off work to care for my dad, I was looking to continue growing my skills in communications at an organization that not only advocated for diverse communities and issues but also highlighted good, positive stories,” said Carmen. “I was raised in Nebraska, and know there are so many great stories to be highlighted, many of them in small towns like Lexington, where I currently live.”

Rhea Landholm, communications manager with the Center, said Carmen is a great addition to the Center team.

“Carmen is our first full-time bilingual communications professional, assisting all program staff here at the Center,” said Rhea. “Her previous experience with the Latino community in Nebraska and on the West Coast, combined with storytelling, social media, and videography, will raise our digital communications to the next level.”

During the past 10 years, the Center has made an effort to expand programming in Spanish, including community leadership that focuses on welcoming communities, offering small business training and one-on-one counseling, among other work that aligns with the growing demographics of rural communities.

Carmen wants to do her part to make that work successful, and she looks to her parents for inspiration.

“I’m proud to say I come from immigrant parents who, when they arrived in the U.S., worked long, hard hours in the broccoli, strawberry, and lettuce fields in California from sunrise to sundown,” Carmen said. “They later worked in the meatpacking plant in Lexington and even opened a small business of their own—continuing to work hard to give their family a better life, which is what much of rural America is doing despite the hardships in today’s world.”

Rural America is the backbone of the country and keeps America going, Carmen said.

“This is where you find the farm/field workers who put in long hours to keep food in our grocery stores and on our tables, and where you will find some of our greatest small business owners who continue to help supply our daily needs,” she said. “I want to help showcase the work that not only the Center does, but its constituents, and how collaborations can create stronger communities. I hope to be able to help share stories of resilience, adaptability, and courage of those in rural communities.”

When she’s not in the office, Carmen can be found enjoying Nebraska’s sunrises and sunsets, spending time with her family and their two pups, and reading a great book whenever she gets the chance. And, she always looks forward to watching a good soccer game with her dad.

Reach Carmen at her home office in Lexington at 402.687.2100, ext. 1021, or