Top 40: James Littley
Kirk Penton - Jun 24, 2020 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

Okanagan Edge and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce are partnering to showcase some of the region’s most exciting entrepreneurs through the “Top 40 Under 40” program.

Sponsored by BDO, the “Top 40 Under 40” recognizes high-achieving professionals in our community and showcases their accomplishments. This marks the sixth year the chamber has conducted a “Top 40” showcase. Honourees will be featured throughout the year on Okanagan Edge.


James Littley’s first career was with the B.C. Dragoons Army Reserve Regiment. He joined at 18 as a private and retired 14 years later as a captain. As a reservist, Littley was put on alert after 9/11, served as the liaison officer for the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps and twice for visits by the Chief of the Defence Staff, deployed for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and served on the standard party for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee visit in 2002.

In 2012, Littley started working for the Okanagan Basin Water Board, taking over management of the valley-wide control program for invasive milfoil. The program, which began in the 1970s, was facing increasing pressures from environmental regulations, old equipment and increased shoreline development, creating operational challenges that needed to be solved. Around 2013, OBWB also became highly concerned about the threat of invasive zebra and quagga mussels. As the “staff lead” on this file, he worked to form partnerships with other organizations, lobby senior governments for more funding and create action items for all levels of government.

Much of what Littley has helped to accomplish in the management of the milfoil program and the prevention of invasive mussels has come by helping to develop strong relationships and partnerships, which he considers part of leadership. This was most apparent to him when, after several months of work, developing partnerships and meeting with provincial staff and ministers, the premier came out and announced improvements to the invasive mussel prevention program, which were, almost point for point, the action items called for by his board and their partners.

In the Canadian Forces, as an officer Littley held several formal leadership positions during his career. The most prominent position was as the operations officer for a 200-person company during the Vancouver Olympics. This meant leading a small team of specialists to ensure that the troops had the resources and communications to maintain security for an Olympic venue.

Littley is a member of the British Columbia Dragoons Regimental Council Society and served as its treasurer through 2019. He also represents the Okanagan Basin Water Board (advocacy) on the BC Water Funders Collaborative Steering Committee and as a board director to Environment Funders Canada—a national network of philanthropic foundations and other organizations that support efforts to transition toward a more sustainable world.

In early 2019, at a meeting of the BC Water Funders, Littley advocated for the first ever Western Canada AquaHacking Challenge to be brought to the Okanagan. He is now the project manager for the event, engaging post-secondary students and young professionals from across Canada to solve Okanagan-focused water issues. Littley believes one of the best ways to advocate for the community is to raise the profile of this beautiful place and highlight the work that is being done here.

Littley has a master of arts degree from UBC Okanagan, looking at local government sustainability policy. He also has a bachelor of arts degree from UBCO with a double major in human geography and political science, and a certificate from Capilano University in local government administration. Littley is continuing his education and is currently working on a diploma in local government administration through Capilano.

In 2012 Littley received an undergraduate research fellowship from UBCO, and he is a recipient of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.

Q&A with James Littley (conducted May 14)

How are you currently approaching the current situation?  

I believe we all need to be flexible and adaptable in this time when members of our community all need to help each other. I am following public health guidance, helping my kids learn from home and trying to buy local as much as possible when I do make a purchase.

What is your favourite quote?  

The most profound quote I have heard recently came from a student participating in our B.C. AquaHacking Challenge about public engagement. “The public want to be the protagonist of change, not just the subject of change.” — Keyvan Khadem, UBC Okanagan

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