Ever wonder what it’s like working alongside your childhood friends? Just ask Denver Water employees Jim Chesley, Mike Mercier and Don Reyes.
The three grew up playing sports together in southwest Denver and graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1982. Since then, they have spent more than 30 years at Denver Water.
Chesley and Mercier — now water distribution managers for Denver Water — met as kids playing little league football, and they have been bonded by sports ever since. With Mercier on the pitcher’s mound and Chesley in centerfield, the two teammates helped take the Lincoln Lancers high school baseball team to the playoffs all three years — an accomplishment they are still proud of today.
Following graduation, each headed to college to pursue their dreams. Chesley took classes at Red Rocks Community College with hopes of becoming a firefighter, and Mercier enrolled at the University of Northern Colorado to earn a teaching degree.
But the two encountered a few bumps after a year in college — the fire department raised the minimum hiring age, and Mercier ran out of money. Both boys returned home to re-evaluate their career options.
Mercier’s father, who worked as a heavy equipment operator and in maintenance and transportation at Denver Water, convinced the boys to apply for positions there. So in 1983, Mercier took a temporary position maintaining the High Line Canal, and Chesley was hired in the emergency services department where he responded to main breaks, took calls in dispatch and monitored equipment at night to discourage vandalism.
The two were once again playing for the same team.
A year later, Chesley and Mercier ran into a familiar face: fellow Lincoln High School classmate Don Reyes, who took a job as a laborer for Denver Water in 1984 installing and repairing water mains, hydrants and service lines.
Reyes and Chesley had bonded back in high school under the lights of the Lincoln High football field as they battled intense rivalries together.
“High school made up some of the best years of our lives. We all played together and our families knew each other; some of them even worked for Denver Water,” Chesley said. “When you grow up with someone and have such close relationships with them, there’s an amazing amount of trust. You know you can rely on them.”
And that trust has proven to be valuable for these classmates-turned-co-workers who have collaborated on many projects over the last three decades at Denver Water.
“When Jim and I worked in the field doing pipeline work years ago, we’d rely heavily on the plumbing shop, and Don would always help us out,” Mercier said. “Even today as managers, we rely on each other for plan reviews, or even just brainstorming and problem-solving.”
“The relationships we have help us do our jobs better — and work’s more entertaining when you have a history and can joke around with someone,” Reyes said.
While they’ve traded the high school pranks and competitive sports fields for supervisory roles (Reyes is now a water quality supervisor) and more relaxing activities like golf and fishing, they still enjoy reminiscing about their high school days.
“When we first started working here, we’d look around at the other guys and say ‘Wow, you’ve been at Denver Water for 30 years?’ We were just punk kids at Denver Water back then,” Chesley said. “Now we’re those old guys.”