Toni Smith's entree into banking began with a life-threatening incident. A student at the University of Washington, the Idaho Falls native was in a head-on car wreck while on break--shattering both her hands through the front window of the vehicle.
"I had to get out, take some time off," Smith said.
That meant a move back to Idaho, where she attended Boise State University and started working part-time at First Interstate Bank. This was in the '60s, when "women didn't really have a chance [in the industry]," she said. "I had to break a lot of ceilings."
And break them she did. From First Interstate Bank, Smith went to Idaho First National Bank, and in 2003, when former Idaho Gov. John Evans asked Smith to open a branch of D.L. Evans Bank in Meridian, it was located in a trailer. Ten years later, D.L. Evans is one of the most successful local banking firms in Idaho, and Smith is vice president and branch manager.
"We've done well here," she said. "I've been very, very lucky."
That might be a little modest. In addition to helming D.L. Evans in Meridian, Smith has earned a stack of awards: 2010 Small Business Champion for Women in Business with the SBA, the 2010 Business Woman of the Year Leadership Award and 2011 Woman of the Year from the Meridian Chamber, to name a few.
Rather than rest on her laurels, Smith has taken those honors as a call to action in the community--and running a bank, it turns out, is the perfect position from which to make an impact.
"I need to be giving back," she said. "The bank wants to be involved in things. ... It's personal relationships here. The bank is very much about that."
And give back she does, serving on the Meridian School District Foundation Board, the Advisory Council for the Meridian Seniors and the St. Luke's Hospital Foundation Advisory Board for both Meridian and Eagle. That's not to mention longtime commitments with the Meridian Chamber; Kiwanis Club, where for years she has chaired and helped with the Festival of Wreaths; and, perhaps nearest to her heart, serving on the board of directors for Special Olympics Idaho.
"How could you not have a love for those children, because they're so loving back?" Smith said of her five years working with Special Olympics, which included helping steer the 2009 World Winter Games in Boise. "That one you can be passionate about."
For Smith, "passion" is a watchword. Whether it's working with the community through the bank, on nonprofits or as a single mother of two--a son who graduated from Gonzaga and a daughter following in banking--her philosophy is to "work with passion and do what you love. It shows."