Staff spotlight: Nicci Chitwood works to create a more vibrant Panhandle


Nicci Chitwood’s enthusiasm for revitalizing rural America is infectious. Combined with her experience in the business world, she is helping people energize small towns all across the Nebraska Panhandle.

Recently hired by the Center for Rural Affairs as a loan specialist, Nicci was familiar with the organization before joining the team. Once she realized the full scope of the Center, she knew it was the perfect place for her.

“I have a passion for helping people and I love seeing people succeed and fulfill their dreams,” she said. “I have a small business myself so I understand it—there’s nothing better than seeing people glow in that ‘I did it myself’ kind of way.”

Before coming to the Center, Nicci spent almost two decades in mortgage servicing origination and worked on underwriting. She also sold digital and print advertising for her local newspaper for four years.

“All of these experiences help me in my role with the Center to offer small business owners financing to make their dreams come true,” she said. “I’m most excited to learn the missing piece of what I didn’t know in the business world, so I can see the whole picture in order to help others succeed.”

Kim Preston, lending services director for the Center, says the organization is lucky to have Nicci on the team.

“Nicci brings small business experience as a former day care owner and today she owns a freeze-dried candy business, as well as marketing and collateral analysis experience,” said Kim. “I am excited about the wide variety of skills she has learned over her career and her abilities to connect to small business owners and hopeful homeowners.”

Nicci’s love for rural America was instilled in her at a young age. She spent much of her life at her dad’s family’s dairy farm outside Minatare, Nebraska.

“I learned a lot growing up there,” she said. “There were always chores to be done—everything from hoeing beets to feeding cattle. We also grew and preserved our own foods. Those are valuable lessons that not everyone has the opportunity to learn.”

Nicci works with small business owners to get financing and coaches them on what loans their businesses qualify for, as well as how to thrive in the long run.

“My goal is to make the Panhandle more vibrant, more full of life,” she said. “Small towns have little left there anymore, and I would love nothing more than to see those small towns come back to life.”

When she’s not assisting small business owners, she runs her freeze-dried candy business, Sugar Shuggah, and spends as much time as she can with her children and grandchildren, who all live nearby. Nicci is a dog lover as well and raises Doodles and French bulldogs.

Nicci is in the Scottsbluff/Gering area and will work from the Center’s Scottsbluff office. Reach her at 308.631.0157 or