Dominion’s david christian ‘the most interested man in the company’ business roanoke.com electric utility companies in arizona

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But if you ask Christian the accomplishment of which he is proudest, what comes up first is being part of the team that launched the Virginia Power Volunteer Program, through which company employees have provided millions of hours of volunteer effort on community projects over the past 30 years.

For instance, one of the Surry Power Station employees’ early volunteer initiatives was to visit the nursing home in Smithfield, and Christian took his turn dressing up as Santa, going from room to room to try to lift the residents’ spirits.

When Surry volunteers were helping make improvements at Chippokes State Park, “Dave was there with the volunteers putting in a walkway as a worker volunteer, swinging a hammer, not mugging for the cameras,” said Cynthia Balderson, manager of Dominion Resources’ corporate philanthropy and community partnerships.

After a break in a meeting of the board of the national Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, Christian called the board back into session by playing his harmonica, recalled Sama Bilbao y Leon, director of VCU’s Nuclear Engineering Programs and a former Dominion engineer.

While he was in charge of the Surry nuclear power station in the mid-1990s, he began the practice of flying the flag of international visitors, and the station had many — from Japan, Russia, Korea, the United Kingdom, in all probably more than two dozen countries.

Around 1989, all four of the Virginia company’s nuclear plants were offline. Both reactor units of the Surry nuclear power station remained offline for a full year and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission put the station on its watch list of problem plants.

As assistant station manager, “I was part of a very large team that helped pull a nuclear program out of a ditch,” Christian said. Imbued with a culture of continuous improvement, Surry received industrywide recognition for safe, reliable, low-cost power generation.

He decided against attempting to climb peaks taller than 25,000 feet. “The people who do, lose, for reasons not fully understood, long-term memory,” he said. “For me, memory is a competitive advantage and a treasure trove I am not willing to risk.”

“He does love the guitar,” said John Bryan, recently retired president of Richmond’s CultureWorks, a nonprofit organization which promotes arts and cultural activities. “Every time I’ve been to his office, there’s a guitar sitting on a stand.”

When state education officials questioned whether the proposed program was important to Virginia Tech, the state and the nation, Christian spoke up. “He didn’t oversell, he didn’t use a heavy hand,” Benson recalled, but “he has a lot of authority.

Asked to explain how he came to be this complex of opposites — conscientious, curious, pensive, playful, serious — Christian said he is “a product of my parents, upbringing, every human interaction since, coupled with a few original thoughts and insights.”

He also says he’s a simple man singing a simple song: “I try to live up to Boy Scout ideals; trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” His father told him, “Don’t ever join anything or be a part of anything for what you can get out of it,” Christian said. “You do things for what you can put into it.”