Fourth-generation Denver Water employee continues family legacy
Years ago, John Feldhauser’s grandfather, a 48-year Denver Water veteran, gave him astute career advice.
“He said, ‘People need two things: Water and graveyards. Pick one of them and you’ll have a good life. You’ll be able to raise a family,’” Feldhauser said. “He’s right. There’s no other place to be except Denver Water.”
Feldhauser’s grandfather, Larry Castillo, started the family legacy in 1963 when he joined Denver Water’s electrical shop, working his way up to supervisor before retiring in 2011. The job was a good fit, and other family members soon followed his lead.
Three years later, in 1966, Josph Pilakowski — Castillo’s father-in-law and Feldhauser’s great-grandfather — joined Denver Water as a custodian. He had retired from the railroads but wasn’t quite ready to stop working.
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“I would come here a lot as a kid,” Feldhauser said. “I spent a lot of time with my grandfather riding around in his truck and seeing the important work he was doing. I had all this exposure when I was young to different career paths.”
Pamela Castillo-Feldhauser, Larry Castillo’s daughter and Feldhauser’s mother, had to wait to apply until her uncle, a meter reader, left Denver Water in 1981. Back then, personnel policies stipulated that no more than two members from the same family could work at the utility.
“But I wanted to work here for the stability and the fact that you’d have a good job at a good place,” said Castillo-Feldhauser, senior finance technician. “It’s a very family-oriented place. This is my extended family.”
Feldhauser started working at Denver Water in the water quality lab in 2012. There, using Denver Water’s tuition reimbursement program, he earned an associate degree in applied sciences.
The completion of the CSU Spur campus, including the Hydro building that houses Denver Water’s new water quality lab, was celebrated in early June.
While in the lab, Feldhauser was instrumental in a project he’s particularly proud of, a joint effort with the hydraulics group to trace water as it moved from Foothills Treatment Plant throughout the delivery system. To do that, the group released calcium chloride, which raises the conductivity of water, allowing researchers to trace the water and develop methods to improve its quality at the farthest reaches of the system, particularly at Denver International Airport.
“All the data we collected supported water quality in all different areas,” he said. “It was a huge project, and it was so cool to be a part of it.”
In 2018, Feldhauser left Denver Water to gain more experience at an engineering firm.
At the same time, he started working on his bachelor’s degree in construction management. Last September, Feldhauser rejoined Denver Water as a senior construction inspector, and he finished his degree a few months later.
Now, Feldhauser juggles working full time at Denver Water, teaching part time at Red Rocks Community College and raising two kids — who will surely get a friendly nudge from their grandma and dad to one day work for Denver Water, too.
“I’ve always wanted to work for the biggest water utility in Colorado,” Feldhauser said.
“We do things that nobody even dreams of. There’s such a talented group of people here. And I’m so glad my family’s a part of that.”
Plus, family is a comforting sight.
“It’s good to come to work and see your mom,” Feldhauser joked. “She always has snacks at her desk.”