Staff spotlight: Toni believes rural America grants opportunity

A native Nebraskan and lifelong northeast Nebraska resident, Toni Smeal relishes rural living.

Recently hired as grants manager for the Center for Rural Affairs, Toni now has the opportunity to not only love living rural, but she also works to protect the lifestyle she cares about so much.

After spending each day in Omaha for her former job, she’s happy to be able to enjoy the simple things rural living has to offer.

“I am excited to be back in a rural, small-town setting, where the traffic jams consist of a tractor going down the highway followed by a handful of cars,” Toni said.

As grants manager, Toni oversees and manages grants and grant writing throughout the Center’s different programs. She hopes that, through her current work and past job experiences, she can enrich the different programs offered by the Center.

“My previous work experience has prepared me perfectly for this role,” she said. “I worked for a regional economic development district assisting communities with economic development, grant writing and administration, and strategic and community planning. Most recently, I worked in a higher education setting, researching and writing grants.”

On a personal level, Toni connects with and believes in the future of small-town businesses, like the ones the Center assists with their financing and business counseling options.

“My husband and I own a small business in Snyder, Nebraska,” she said. “Some may think the vitality of our rural communities is waning, but with the right guidance, direction, and nurturing, I see opportunity and growth.”

Toni and her husband have four grown daughters, who are all teachers. In her free time, she enjoys watching sports, reading, and spending time with her growing family.

She can be reached at the Center’s office in Lyons, Nebraska, at 402.687.1000 ext. 1007 or