Dave Damiano, marketing director for the Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) and two-term past president of the Downtown Organization board, died this Monday of liver failure at age 46. In addition to his marketing duties, Damiano was charged with planning bus routes and schedules. “It’s a lot to lose David for the district, but it’s a lot to lose him as a friend,” said Sherrie Fisher, MTD general manager. “He was the person to remind me of all the places I needed to be and to make sure we don’t forget who we’re serving and how we should communicate to them.”
When Damiano started with MTD in 1999, he knew little about transit districts. MTD was just emerging from under a cloud of community controversy over fare hikes and a previous executive discredited over conflict-of-interest allegations. In that context, Damiano emerged as a seemingly unlikely point person for the media and the community. He was quiet and reserved, yet he quickly established himself as a consistent presence in community affairs, someone who did the work without grabbing the headlines. He was active with the Downtown Organization board, serving two terms as president. When downtown merchants were clamoring for tougher laws restricting the homeless, Damiano led the charge in favor of the “Real Change, Not Spare Change” campaign designed to provide those inclined to give to panhandlers a less enabling alternative. That the campaign withered before bearing fruit cannot be attributed to Damiano’s lack of effort.
About a year ago, Damiano was diagnosed with a rare liver malfunction, Wilson’s disease, stemming from his body’s inability to process copper. The medications he was taking, he discovered late last week, had thrashed his liver; he would need a transplant. Damiano died before making it onto a transplant list. “He’s the best boss I ever had,” said Kate Schwab, who handled many marketing functions under Damiano. “I knew nothing about transit, and he taught me. He said, ‘You are good at this job, you belong here, and I will help you.’”