At American Water, we honor our veteran and active duty employees every day for their dedication and hard work. But every year on Veterans Day, November 11, we take time to truly reflect on their contributions to our company, but also to our country.
As a former captain in the U.S. Army, I have firsthand knowledge of the lifelong skills, values and work ethic that come from service in the military. Yet, despite years of experience, many veterans still struggle to find work in civilian life and, as of September 2020, 6.8% are unemployed. That’s why it’s one of my greatest honors and responsibility to lead a company that embraces inclusion and diversity and makes it a mission to employ and support veterans and active members of the national guard and reserve.
Our veteran-focused recruitment programs, our work with American Corporate Partners, our Military Services Group, our Veterans Resource Group, and more, have singled out American Water as a trusted employer of current and former military service members. On top of that, I recently had the honor of accepting the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award — the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers — on behalf of our company.
To celebrate Veterans Day, American Water salutes all veterans, and those employees continuing to serve — because, at the end of the day, we are better off with them in our ranks. Here are a few, among the many, who we are so proud to call American Water employees.
Petty Officer Second Class (Ret.) Juan Sanchez — U.S. Navy — Production Technician, Illinois American Water
Before starting his 30-year career at Illinois American Water, Juan Sanchez served ten years in the U.S. Navy, including four years stationed on a guided missile destroyer. Sanchez emulates why our industry should value military service in prospective employees. His tenure with the Navy taught him invaluable skills that would not only set him up for success at American Water, but also set American Water up for success as a company.
Sanchez left the service knowing how to work on water pumps and boilers, preparing him for maintaining critical equipment at several water treatment plants. He also learned how to navigate challenging conditions — a skill he leveraged in his role at American Water, showing up for our team and communities when we needed him the most. In several weather-related events at our Peoria water treatment plant (located along the Illinois River), Sanchez worked 12-hour shifts to keep water flowing to customers and prevent service interruption during flood conditions. To this day, members of the community stop him on the streets to say thank you. When asked what this means to him, Sanchez humbly replies, “I was just doing my job. Every day, I serve my customers with the same passion as I served my country.”
Lieutenant Commander (Ret.) Kristina McGee – U.S. Navy – Director of Engineering, Virginia & Maryland American Water
During her tenure at American Water, prior to joining Virginia and Maryland, Kristina served as Senior Construction Engineer with American Water’s Corporate Engineering, working on Engineering projects across 10 of our 14 regulated states. As Director of Engineering, Kristina supervises and mentors 13 full-time employees and contracted employees and uses her leadership skills from the Navy to develop her team to thrive. Kristina is a dedicated, hardworking employee and Virginia and Maryland American Water are fortunate to have her as a leader.
Lieutenant (Ret.) Dan Monahan — U.S. Navy — Technology Field Support Lead, American Water Midwest
In 20+ years at American Water, Lt. Monahan has established himself as an integral part of our regional leadership team. He got his start supporting water quality at the Central Laboratory in Belleville, Illinois, before his hard work and skills led him on a path to his current position — Midwest Technology Field Support Lead. Lt. Monahan believes his service prepared him for his career with American Water, especially when it comes to leadership, and we couldn’t agree more. Every day, he is a living example of how being a true leader is having commitment and dedication to employees and customers.
Master Sergeant (Ret.) Barry Pawelek — U.S. Marine Corps — Customer Communications Manager, American Water
Barry Pawelek enlisted in the Marine Corps as an infantryman in 1987. Throughout his tenure, he served as a combat photographer and public affairs chief, before retiring from active duty as a Master Sergeant in 2007. In 2008, MSgt. Pawelek took his service-developed knack for communications to American Water when he was hired as the Western Division’s Communications Manager.
During his time with the company, MSgt. Pawelek has led many innovative projects that directly impact and benefit American Water customers. He was instrumental in communications for the California Drought, and California’s mandatory conservation goals. He has developed communication plans to support the company’s multiple webpage redesign projects, all with a focus on customer accessibility. He partnered with the Customer Experience team to pilot MyWater, an online tool that customers use to manage their water and wastewater accounts. One of his most significant achievements is the substantial increase in customers electing to receive their bills electronically — from 0 in 2012, to almost 750,000 today.
First Sergeant Brandon Wilson — National Guard — Field Services Representative, Tennessee American Water
Brandon Wilson has a long and diverse history with the military. Early on, he was in an airborne unit, where he amassed 22 parachute jumps, including a “Mass-Attack” jump of hundreds of soldiers from five C-17 airplanes. He has also been deployed on several missions including Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq; Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; disaster relief in Haiti; and Operation New Horizons in Nicaragua. Currently serving as a First Sergeant in the 236th Intelligence Squadron for the Tennessee Air National Guard, Wilson directs, mentors, and serves to support several hundred airmen in their unit’s around-the-clock mission. As one of our in-service employees, 1st Sgt. Wilson works hard to balance his responsibilities at Tennessee American Water and his obligations to his unit.
In his role at American Water, 1st Sgt. Wilson serves customers throughout the Chattanooga area by providing in-person service at homes and businesses, helping customers understand their bills, and facilitate an easy experience with customer service. Customers have often reached out to commend Wilson on his helpful nature, professionalism, knowledge, and insight when on the job.
“We are so lucky that he also serves our water customers in Chattanooga, and that he is a hero to them every day,” said Vice President of Operations Tony D’Aguillo, also a U.S. Army veteran.
Captain Jeff Hollis — U.S. Army National Guard — Capital Projects Manager, Military Services Group
For nearly 17 years, Jeff Hollis has been in the Army National Guard. He was deployed in 2014 to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom and currently serves as the Forward Support Company Commander of the 1140th Engineer Battalion in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
At American Water, Captain Hollis manages a team of five people who develop and execute capital projects at Fort Leonard Wood. Fort Leonard Wood has a large capital program that will perform millions of dollars in water and wastewater improvements over the next three to five years. His team currently has seven projects in progress, including constructing a new operations center, repairing over 200,000 feet of sewer mains, replacing over 50,000 feet of water mains, and upgrading the wastewater plant’s disinfection system. Currently, he is working on a five-year capital plan to address existing shortcomings for end of life equipment as well as system improvements. In his role, Captain Hollis is also the primary liaison with the government for all capital water and wastewater projects.
Today and every day, I am so proud to lead American Water and provide essential water services alongside dedicated, resourceful, and hard-working service members and veterans.