O, lucky man: Phillips and the rockets' red glare

Whether it's a 1,500-person conference, a family reunion, or Charlottesville's Fourth of July fireworks celebration– Dave Phillips can organize it.

"They're all the same and have the same logistics issues," he says.

In his life before taking on the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors CEO job in 1998, Phillips was a certified events planner and headed the Virginia Chapter of Meeting Planners. That makes him a natural to take over the at-times troubled July 4 fireworks at McIntire Park, which nearly fizzled out two years ago.

"This will be the biggest, most expensive, most impressive fireworks in Central Virginia on the Fourth of July," he boasts. That promise is backed by a recent $10,000 donation from the Dave Matthews Band, one of the "grand finale" sponsors.

"They put that challenge to us and said they wanted to take it up a notch," says Phillips.

That means about 30 percent more bang for the buck. The show was already as long as it should be– people's attention span for fireworks is about 25 minutes, according to Phillips– so organizers upgraded the fireworks. Six-inch rockets went to eight inches; eight inches went to 10.

Or as he puts it, "Instead of 'ooh,' you'll get an 'ooh' and an 'ah.'"

Other than the constant challenge of raising money for the Save the Fireworks Foundation, Phillips, a religion major in college, isn't losing any sleep about the event coming together.

"The only thing we ever worry about is weather," he says. He even has volunteers lined up for July 5 to pick up the post-fireworks debris.

When he's not organizing patriotic celebrations, Phillips is the spokesman for realtors in the Charlottesville area (and he always has to use the registered trademark symbol when he writes the word "realtor"– in caps). "I have 1,100 bosses," he jokes.

Is that too many real estate agents? Phillips says with them spread out through Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa, and Nelson, it's not as bad as some areas, where there can be four realtors for every house for sale. Here, there's one.

It may not even be the largest job sector in this area, he suggests: "There's probably more writers than realtors."

And the real estate question du jour: Is there a bubble? "Not locally," Phillips says. The only way he sees housing prices bursting would be to close UVA or set up a nuclear waste facility.

"Short of that, we're going to continue to go up," he says.

Age: 45

Why here? I moved here to be the CEO of the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® in 1998 after living my entire sheltered life in the Richmond area.

What's worst about living here? People running red lights. The road system is so inadequate around here that people are compelled to run red lights like no other place I've ever been.

Favorite hangout? A swimming pool. My family is heavily involved in competitive swimming, and we are always at a pool somewhere. My wife's car even has "2DPool" on the license plate.

Most overrated virtue? Either my stunning good looks or my modesty.

People would be surprised to know: I've just finished writing my first novel. Anyone know a publisher?

What would you change about yourself? I'd love to not be colorblind (even if just for a little while). It's no big deal, but I'd love to see what I'm missing. (Note: this answer is not related to my answer about running red lights.)

Proudest accomplishment? Finishing my novel (after three years)

People find most annoying about you: I'm the luckiest man alive. No matter how badly I screw something up, it always ends up being a good thing. It's better to be lucky than good, but it does annoy others that I get off easy.

Whom do you admire? Colin Powell– best leader/speaker/person I've ever seen.

Favorite book? Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Subject that causes you to rant? NIMBYism. Not In My Back Yard has become the most destructive force in local planning for growth. The result is that decisions are made based on the path of least resistance rather than on smart planning. It's time to stop listening to those who whine the loudest and start doing what makes sense for the entire community.

Biggest 21st-century thrill? Climbing through the Aspen forests to the top of the mountain at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah. Being alone at over 12,000 feet is an amazing thrill.

Biggest 21st-century creep out? Realizing my digital camera was missing its memory card while standing on top of the mountain at Deer Valley.

What do you drive? Nissan Maxima

In your car CD player right now: My car is too old to have a CD player, but my Apple Transpod (Father's Day gift) probably has Aimee Mann still cued up.

Next journey? Chicago

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? See my answer about my most annoying trait.

Regret: Not getting better grades in college at Hampden-Sydney.

Favorite comfort food: Pizza

Always in your refrigerator: Budweiser

Must-see TV: West Wing, Las Vegas and Desperate Housewives

 Favorite cartoon: Dilbert

Describe a perfect day. Any day that UVA beats North Carolina or Maryland in any sport

Walter Mitty fantasy: I guess I'm not very hip, because I had to Google "Walter Mitty." I found out it means "popular shorthand for any timid soul who dreams of a more dashing life." I sometimes fantasize about breaking up a crime (rape, abduction, etc.) at the last minute and beating up the scumbag with my bare hands Ă  la Walker, Texas Ranger.

Who'd play you in the movie? Bruce Willis (we balding guys have to stick together)

Most embarrassing moment? Walking down the parade route at the Urbana Oyster festival with my fly wide open

Best advice you ever got? Never argue with anyone who buys ink by the barrel.

Favorite bumper sticker? "Nuke the Gay Baby Whales" This is from the '80s when political correctness was taking root. I always loved the way it takes political incorrectness to a different level.

Dave Phillips