Keeping It in the Family at California American Water

Shelley Kolonics grew up thinking her father was working for a good company with a strong union. Little did she know she would one day join him.

Andy and Shelley Kolonics

Andy Kolonics, president of Local 511 at California American Water, never thought that would happen either.  He has been with the company for 40 years in many different roles and is now lead distribution foreman in the field.

“She went to college,” he said. “She studied psychology.”

Shelley was active in theater in college and worked later in education for after-school programs. But during the pandemic, she applied for an open position at California American Water in customer service. She’s now been there for three-and-a-half years and has no plans to leave. “There are so many opportunities for growth within the company, and I hope I can stay here as long as my dad,” she said.

Andy joined American Water when he was 20 years old and has been married to his wife Susie for nearly as long as he has worked for the company. Both he and Susie are happy to have Shelley working so nearby.

Both father and daughter say they keep their relationship professional at work. They try not to talk about “my dad,” or “my daughter.”

Shelley said the relationship does add a bit of pressure. “I know how hard my dad works and how respected he is,” she said. “I wanted to earn that respect on my own.”

California American Water and its predecessor companies have operated the Monterey Peninsula’s water system since 1883. The system currently serves roughly 100,000 people with a network of over 680 miles of pipeline and over 100 storage tanks. While Andy is out in the field, Shelley works in the main office, but they talk nearly every day as part of the job.

The best thing for Shelley about working with her father is being able to tap his years of experience. “For me personally, the amount of knowledge he has…it’s enabled me to bring myself up to speed on so many issues so much faster than if I didn’t have that connection,” she said. “I started during COVID so this was extra important.”

Andy said having contact with Shelley in customer service is a help. “I can always reach her, and she’s very smart,” he said, adding she was named California American Water’s “employee of the quarter” in the second quarter.

Andy said he had no reservations about Shelley taking a job at the company.

“I said don’t let your father down,” he said, adding she hasn’t come close to that. Both said that working together has brought them closer.

“This company and my union put a roof over our heads and gave us a good life. I’m glad Shelley will have the same opportunity to have a strong union and provide for her own family,” Andy said.

Local 511 has 64 members, with 95% working in the field. Andy has been president for six-and-a-half years and served 6 years as vice president and trustee before that.

While the Kolonics are the only father-daughter pair in Local 511, there are other family connections, with two father-son pairs: Jim Martin, Sr. and his son Jim, Jr. and George Phillips and his son Chris.