LUCEDALE, Miss. (WKRG) — Walt Massey has been named the Mississippi nominee for the 2020 TIME Dealer of the Year award, TIME announced Tuesday.

Massey is one of 49 dealer nominees from across the country who will be honored at the 103rd annual National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show in Las Vegas on February 15, 2020.

The TIME Dealer of the Year award is one of the automobile industry’s most prestigious and highly coveted honors. Recipients are among the nation’s most successful auto dealers who also demonstrate a long-standing commitment to community service.

Walt Massey, 48, was chosen to represent the Mississippi Automobile Dealers Association (MADA) in the national competition.

“Building a business from virtually nothing into a vibrant and prosperous organization that makes a tremendous impact on our community and the families we employ is extremely rewarding to me,” nominee Massey said.

Massey began his career in the retail auto business at the age of 8, cutting the grass and washing cars at his father’s dealership in Citronelle, Alabama. “My dad had nine total employees and the dealership was my second home,” he said. “My mom kept the books while my dad sold cars, and I helped out with anything that needed to be done.”

After high school, Massey attended the University of Mobile in Alabama but returned home when his father purchased a struggling dealership across the state line in Mississippi in 1993. “The dealership was located in an old dilapidated building on Main Street in Lucedale,” he said. “My dad planned to hire a manager to run the dealership but could not find anyone who would take the job. I told him I would quit school and run the store. He reluctantly agreed, and I opened the dealership 13 days before my 22nd birthday.”

Massey slowly expanded the operation, built a new facility and today operates five new franchised dealerships, employing more than 175 people. “I thank my dad for giving me the opportunity to build my own business,” he said. “He never tried to influence my business philosophies and always encouraged me to follow my instincts. I’m also thankful for my wife Christy who is instrumental in shaping the culture of our organization. Her selfless dedication to our family and business has been a vital part of our success.”

A committed member of MADA, Massey has served as a board member from 2005 to 2010 and the group’s chairman from 2008 to 2009, a critical time in the auto industry. “The lessons I learned in that year have in-creased my desire to remain active in our association,” he said.

Currently, Massey is vice chairman of MADA SIF, the association’s self-insured workers compensation program. “I have developed a close working relationship with our third-party administrator to ensure our members enjoy affordable insurance and are educated on the importance of workplace safety,” he said.

Massey is also passionate about serving his community. He is a sponsor of Mercy House Ministries, a local organization that provides no-cost rehabilitation to men struggling with substance abuse. “We provide funds each year and jobs for the men during their time at Mercy House,” he said.

In addition, Massey aided employees of a dealership in Florida after Hurricane Michael in 2018 by sending 25 employees from his own dealership to the area to help clear debris from damaged homes. And in 2017, he purchased and helped transport generators to South Carolina for victims of Hurricane Irma.

He is also involved in fundraising events that benefit children and schools, from supporting youth sports to donating a new car to a local high school’s Teacher of the Year to participating in the Buick Drive for Your Stu-dents test drive fundraising events to hosting the annual Walt Massey’s Classic Cruisin’ Car Show, which helps provide Christmas gifts to underprivileged children, to sponsoring the University of Mobile Scholarship Banquet.

Massey added, “When I see our sign on ballfields, our general manager serving as an announcer at every Friday night football game, our technician leaving for National Guard duty, our sales manager singing in his church – and the social media comments thanking our dealership for all we do for our community – I cannot help but consider myself the most rewarded dealer in the country.”

He and his wife, Christy, have two children.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.