Energized to be best
Prairie Island nuclear plant’s new site vice president has a vision to be the best — the best in the industry, the best in the company and the best in the community.
The drive starts with operation excellence, producing safe, efficient, reliable and clean energy.
“We owe that to the community,” said Kevin Davison, who is completing his first six months overseeing the two-reactor facility.
“We have to be good employers,” he continued. Jim Mulden, one of three site vice presidents Davison worked under before taking the helm, made that clear to everyone at the plant. “I learned engagement with the employees is vitally important to the organization.”
The plant also has to make a profit for Xcel Energy within the structure the Public Utilities Commission has set down, he said. A portion of those revenues can then be returned to the community through scholarships, grants and charitable donations.
“We need to be a positive influence,” Davison said. “When we do all those things, Prairie Island will be around for a long time to come.”
Davison has spent 30 years in the nuclear industry, starting with eight years in the U.S. Navy. He and his wife come from New York state and Connecticut, worked at length in the Midwest and then went “home.”
“This place has changed,” he recounted his wife saying a year later.
“I don’t think so. We’ve changed. We don’t fit the East Coast culture anymore,” he said he replied.
“Oddly enough, a couple weeks later I got a call from Xcel,” he said. Davison became the Prairie Island nuclear plant manager in September 2010 and Afton, Minn. — which he calls the perfect halfway spot between Twin Cities headquarters and Prairie Island — has been home ever since. His wife raises Morgan horses near there.
He became director of site operations in 2011.
During that time he worked under Mark Schimmel, Mulden and finally Jim Lynch until his promotion last November.
Lynch was essentially on loan from the Institute of Nuclear Power Operation for a year. Among his contributions, Davison said, were lessons in engaging local stakeholders — the Prairie Island Indian Community, Red Wing, Goodhue County, surrounding communities and corporate Xcel Energy.
“What I’m trying to add is that Prairie Island is in the top five nuclear plants in the country,” Davison said. It was once, he noted.
“I want to bring us back to that without losing the employee involvement and the community involvement,” he said.
He added that he’s deeply appreciative of the relationship with the Prairie Island Indian Community. The Tribal Council and Xcel collaborate on issues big and small, from bringing natural gas to the island in 2013 to sharing emergency response services.
“We’re a good neighbor and they’re a good neighbor to us as well,” Davison said.
Pam Gorman is Xcel Energy’s community relations and economic development manager for this region. She said some site vice presidents have excelled at technical competence, some the community or human relations side of the business.
“He gets all of those areas,” she said.
A self-described huge supporter of United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce Counties, Davison said he looks forward to Wednesday’s 4 p.m. workplace campaign showdown at the Elks Lodge. Did his team defeat Dave Murphy’s Red Wing Shoe Co. team?
Davison predicts both leaders will go home with paint in their hair. It’s all part of the fun in doing serious work.
“We want the communities to feel we add value — not just economic value,” he said. That means employees serve on school boards, city commissions, volunteer and more. “My goal is have people say of Prairie Island, ‘Hey, that’s a valuable asset and we’re really happy that they’re here.’”