Damato earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in Athens in 1994. She worked briefly at a local technical college as a career counselor before joining the dealership owned by her father, Wyndall Walters, in 1997.
“I am a fourth-generation car dealer, which began with my great grandfather in 1946,” she said. “I have been around the dealership my entire life and have worked in every department from the back to the front. My adult career began when I was in graduate school and my father had an opening.”
Over the years, Damato and her father have expanded operations and today, the Fitzgerald Auto Group also includes Fitzgerald Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, which was added to their portfolio in 2013. “Since I joined the family business, we have received 13 President's Awards from Ford and the One Ford Elite award several times,” she said.
Damato also values the role the dealerships play in providing jobs in her rural area. “It's nice to be able to employ great people and give them the opportunity to make a good living for their families,” she said.
An active member of the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association, Damato understands and appreciates the critical roles that state and national dealer groups play in advancing the auto industry. She has served her state association as a board member since 2008 and was named secretary, treasurer and, in 2020, chair of the group.
“I was the first female chair and I am honored that my fellow dealers trusted me with this responsibility,” she said. “During my time with the state association, we made changes to improve taxation on vehicle purchases and leases, and fought to preserve and uphold the strength of Georgia franchise laws.”
Damato also uses her leadership skills to advance causes in her local area. “I live in a small rural community and feel that community involvement is extremely important,” she said. “The car business allows me, as well as our employees, to be involved in many different charitable organizations.”
To that end, Damato and her husband, Todd, along with another couple, created Grand Concert Promotions. “We sponsor sporting events, academic events, rodeos, chamber events and local concerts through Grand Concert Promotions,” she said. “Our goal was to bring music and entertainment to our community, as well as support local arts and help revitalize our town.” In addition, the group awards four scholarships a year, two for students interested in music and the arts and two agricultural/Future Farmers of America scholarships.
Damato also serves on the boards of the Dorminy Medical Center Foundation; Fitzgerald High School College & Career Academy; Kiwanis Club of Fitzgerald (immediate past chair); and the Ben Hill Education Foundation. She also participates in test-drive promotions to raise money for local school systems.
“It has been a blessing to be able to work with my father, Wyndall, and husband, Todd, over the years, as we share common goals and value the importance of friendship, kindness and community involvement,” Damato said.
Damato was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Lea Kirschner, president and CEO of the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association. She and her husband, Todd, have one child.