Staff spotlight: early memories shape Tim's view of rural Nebraska

Small Towns

By Tim Mussack, former staff member

My parents owned and operated a small-town grocery store in Decatur, Nebraska, and I spent my early childhood roaming the aisles, "helping" and raiding the candy section when no one was looking. I remember how dedicated my parents were, both to the community and their own personal success. If a customer couldn’t physically shop because of age or health, my parents would take the order over the phone and personally deliver the groceries. I rode along on many of these trips and will never forget how grateful those customers were for the assistance.
Later in my childhood, the grocery business sold, my parents took different jobs and we moved to a farm on the edge of town. Again I witnessed my parents’ determination and care as they worked, raised their children, and grew corn and soybeans, along with managing a cow-calf herd.
While not everything was a success on the farm—such as when the 1998 hog market collapse made our small farrowing operation unsustainable—most of my memories are positive. I remember fixing fences while listening to Husker football with my father. I’ll never forget the time we rushed out of the field and into the house just in time to watch Nebraska beat Missouri in the famous “flea kicker” game.
Despite a great upbringing and fantastic role models, my decisions as a young adult led me away from my hometown. Upon graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I served in the U.S. Army for eight and a half years. The Army allowed me to experience a different life in places including Georgia, Kansas, Hawaii, Kwajalein Atoll, and Iraq. Once my service was complete, my wife and I traveled the western states, exploring 26 national parks and countless communities in between. When our nomadic experience ended, we moved to Honolulu for a year. We will always miss the beach, sunshine, and late-night Waikiki adventures, but at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we found ourselves back in Burt County visiting family—and we decided to stay.
After being back for almost two years now I’m thankful to be home. Spending 16 years away has made me appreciate rural Nebraska and, as we say, the good life. The life we enjoy in rural Nebraska is not perfect, though, and I’m grateful that the Center for Rural Affairs works to improve it. My appreciation for rural America is what drew me to the Center. My work here gives me the opportunity to advocate for state policies that help rural communities. Equity in access to necessities, such as health care and fresh food, along with increasing economic opportunities, are all things I’m excited to advocate for.
My adolescent life will always remind me of what the rural experience can and should be. I hope my time at the Center makes rural Nebraska stronger.
Today, Tim lives outside Decatur, Nebraska, with his wife and 1-year-old son. When he's not working, he enjoys family camping adventures, making Neapolitan and Detroit style pizza, and reading.