Sensei, Bodyguard and Jonas Salk’s Right-hand Man: Getting to Know Kevin Little

Sensei, Bodyguard and Jonas Salk’s Right-hand Man: Getting to Know Kevin Little

When Senior Program Manager Kevin Little joined VPCS in 2020, he brought years of experience building, managing, operating and maintaining world-class facilities, including a stint with the Los Angeles public school system – the second largest district in the country. Kevin’s professional resume was impressive enough. Then we really got to know him and learned that there’s much more to this construction professional than serious industry talent. Discover a few of Kevin Little’s many sides in this conversation:


Q: Which VPCS projects do you work on?

KL: I support the project management and program planning teams at the Cloverdale Unified School District, the Old Adobe Union District in Petaluma and the Marysville Joint Unified School District in Yuba County.


Q: You grew up in the U.K., correct?

KL: That’s right. I was raised in Chester on the English-Welsh border about 30 miles south of Liverpool. I got my bachelor’s degree from Chester College, right there in my hometown. But my goal was always to come to the U.S. – and I always aspired to be a coach – so I landed here in 1979 and started teaching karate and soccer.


Q: Have you kept up with both karate and soccer?

KL: Yes. I still practice and coach both sports. I hold a fifth-degree black belt in Shotokan karate and a sixth-kyu green belt in Kyokushin full-contact karate. I’m registered as a karate instructor at three different dojos. On the soccer side, I was ranked as a semi-pro in England back in the day. And I’ve coached soccer here in the U.S. for about 30 years. I’ve coached people of all ages, including my own daughters starting when they were about four years old. And now both of my grandsons are on soccer teams, so I’m getting out there on the pitch and having a go with the next generation of players.


Q: Getting back to your education, tell us about your law studies.

KL: Back when I was working in biotech, I spent a lot of time interacting with my company’s legal department getting deep into construction contracts. That sparked an interest in going to law school. So I enrolled in law classes at St. Mary’s College in Moraga (which offers an undergraduate Law and Society minor) and I even took the LSAT. I ended up with a certificate as a registered paralegal, but never formally pursued a law degree because my career ended up taking me further into construction. But I learned so much about critical thinking, how to write and how to look at things through a risk management lens while studying the law; those skills have really served me in my professional life.


Q: Speaking of your professional life, describe your career highlight.

KL: Easy – that’s when I worked on the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego. I was hired by the firm overseeing the programming/design phase of a new freestanding addition to the research institute, and they asked me to run the project for them. So I’d go down to San Diego for these weekly OA [owner-architect] meetings and there’d be multiple Nobel Prize winners sitting at the table. First, of course, there was Jonas Salk, whose 1955 publication of his research was a major breakthrough in the development of a vaccine for polio. Then there were two more scientists at the other end of the table who were Nobel Laureates. Salk was in his 70s by the time I worked on the project, but he still had all his wits about him. He would have me sit on his right side in the OA meetings because he was deaf in that ear. And I’d have to whisper to him to let him know everything that was going on. It was wild. And I got to be part of adding to that beautiful, beautiful building. So that was a lot of fun.


Q: Your LinkedIn photo shows you wearing a boutonnière and a mini microphone. What’s the story there?

KL: That picture was taken at the wedding of my son’s best friend, which I officiated! I got ordained through the Universal Life Church so I could legally marry them. I was pleased to do it; it was such an honor. Plus, it earned me my new nickname: “Rev Kev.”


Q: What are your other hidden talents?

KL: Well I don’t know if they’re talents necessarily, but I’ve always been around music. My dad was a band manager back in England in the ‘60s and I’d go around with him when I was a kid as he’d try to get the band gigs. His group was called The Heartbeats, which was on the same circuit as the Silver Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, Jerry and the Pacemakers, Petula Clark and others. Keep in mind: we were only about 20 minutes from Liverpool. It was a really interesting time and place for music and it really sparked an interest in me. When I was about 13, I hitchhiked with a friend on a milk truck all the way from Chester to London – which felt like the other end of the world at the time – to see the Rolling Stones at their free concert in Hyde Park. We were kids and away we went! Now I’m making sure my grandkids understand and appreciate the classic music that influences what they listen to today.


Q: Is there an inner rock star hiding inside the construction PM?

KL: Not necessarily. But I know that world pretty well. In fact, one of the craziest experiences I’ve ever had was when I was hired to be a bodyguard for Dee Snider, the lead singer of the band Twisted Sister. This was in the early ’80s; I’d already moved to the U.S. but was back in England for a visit. Twisted Sister was scheduled to play at Wrexham Stadium in Wales, which is very close to my hometown and it’s a pitch I know well because I’d played a lot of soccer there when I was coming up. I’d also worked as a doorman in a lot of pubs around the area, and they were hiring doormen to add to the band’s security and convey a sense of crowd control at this large venue. They said to me and a friend of mine (and about 40 other guys), “We’ll give you each $10 and you can wear these yellow tee shirts that say SECURITY and you can basically have a day out on us.” But when my friend and I got to the stadium, they pulled us aside and told us that our job was to keep an eye on Dee Snider himself as he went from his dressing room to the stage. Sounded easy enough, but it was total chaos. Wales wasn’t really ready to see anything like those guys. Still, it was a great day. Then the promoter tried to tell all of us wearing yellow shirts – we looked like a bunch of canaries – that he couldn’t pay us. That didn’t go over well, especially with one Liverpudlian who threatened to take the band’s drum kit as payment instead! So they ended up giving us our $10 and we went on our way. It was all just hilarious.


Q: From taking care of rock stars to taking care of construction projects … 

KL: I’m not sure if my background as Dee Snider’s bodyguard ties directly to my role as a PM, but I’ll tell you that I do enjoy the responsibility of taking care of school facilities. And one of the reasons I love working for VPCS is that even though I report to Mark [Van Pelt], he isn’t always looking over my shoulder. This company values relationships and treats people very well. If you know your stuff, then your boss will check in with you and will always be available to you but mostly trusts you to do your job well. I guess it’s all part of the Van Pelt Way and it’s a nice way to work.


June 19, 2023