Chief T. John Cunningham has over twenty-one years’ experience in the public safety field. He is presently the Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director for the City of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, a vibrant and diverse community of over 81,000. The department handles more than 9,400 calls for service annually with a combination of full-time and paid on-call staff. Prior, Chief Cunningham was the Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director for the City of Elk River, Minnesota. He is also the President of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association.
Prior to moving to Minnesota in 2009, Chief Cunningham was a volunteer district chief for a combination fire department in Greenwich, Connecticut, and one of the original members of the Connecticut Urban Search and Rescue Task Force. He also worked in the private sector, owning a successful IT consulting firm.
I have had the pleasure of working with John in his role as a member of the Statewide Emergency Communications Board (SECB) representing the Minnesota Fire Chiefs in Greater Minnesota. John is a natural leader. His enthusiasm rubs off on others and he is always a positive force. If there is a challenge, John will be part of the group that sits down to brainstorm and find a solution. John just does the right thing. Maybe not always the easy thing but the right thing for the right reasons. John was instrumental in assisting the SECB and our division with trialing the new Band 14 dedicated to wireless broadband for public safety in Elk River. This took a great deal of his personal time and attention but he did so willingly because he is interested in the future of emergency communications and how to make it easier for his fellow responders to focus on the emergency yet have multiple resources available to effective response. I wholeheartedly support John’s candidacy!
John Cunningham is a great Fire Chief for the City of Elk River. He takes his job very seriously. It is not an eight-hour thing for him, rather a way of life. I was part of a task force put together by John that examined how things were done in the Fire Department. It created some hard feelings among the fire fighters but it was the right thing to do and the end product has helped improve the overall operation of the department. It was a five year vision and so far we are on course to meet that vision. John attacks problems head on, looking for solutions. He is very prompt with his response to citizens who have concerns about certain issues. He is friendly, dedicated and professional. He is always looking for ways to make things better. He has gone out of his way to get involved in state and national fire related activities. He definitely has a passion for what he does. We are very fortunate to have him working for our city.
As the Prosecutor for the City of Elk River, I have had the pleasure of working alongside Chief Cunningham since 2012. In addition to the normal duties and obligations one would expect from the Fire Chief, Chief Cunningham seemed to go above and beyond as he was also responsible for Code enforcement activities for the City, including building inspections and rental inspections. Naturally, these responsibilities required great knowledge of the Building Code and the Elk River City Code, which Chief Cunningham always seemed to have a firm grasp on. While I wasn’t surprised by his vast knowledge of the Fire Code, I was impressed with his extensive comprehension of building codes and inspections, rental inspections and general Code enforcement practices and procedures. Perhaps even more impressive than his knowledge was the manner in which he addressed difficult Code related issues and uncooperative residents. Whether it was the modification of a current Ordinance or the handling of an upset resident, I always found Chief Cunningham to be calm, thoughtful and very mindful of any potential unintended consequences of actions before they were implemented. I believe his knowledge, demeanor and respectfulness towards others, while handling difficult situations, is what has earned Chief Cunningham the respect of City staff and the residents he serves. Recommending an individual for a specific position is not something I take lightly, as I believe, in some respects, this reflects upon my credibility as well. With this in mind, I have no hesitation in recommending Chief Cunningham for consideration as the President of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs’ Association. I believe that through his knowledge, dedication and compassion, he has portrayed the attributes necessary for such a respected position and would be a fine role model to all firefighters.
Few people have the opportunity to report to a fire officer who is also a coach and mentor—but I did when I worked for T. John. I had the pleasure of working for T. John for six years at the Greenwich Fire Department, and collaborating on several projects in the professional contracting world. I was particularly impressed by T. John ability to handle even the toughest situations in the calmest of demeanors. That skill often takes years to develop among fire service professionals, but it seemed to come perfectly naturally to him. As a firefighter or a Fire Chief, T. John earns my highest recommendation.
I had the privilege of going to John’s department in CT to do a swiftwater Operations class a few years ago. John spearheaded things as a student and a leader, ensuring his department knew the evolutions inside and out, and impressed me by being one of the first people to do a skill, every time. Very impressive to see the Chief of a department going first, and being a true leader in the sense of the word.
I have worked with Chief Cunningham in many capacities including on active incidents, in an emergency operations center as well as several exercises and trainings. No matter the capacity, Chief Cunningham has always been professional, knowledgeable, committed and dependable. He has demonstrated great qualities of leadership and is always willing to learn and teach. I would highly recommend John Cunningham to lead the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association.
I find it difficult to expand on the numerous testimonials already speaking to Johns many positive attributes. End of the day you want people like John to be part of your team. All organizations, to which John served over his career, should feel blessed to have received the time they did.
John is a very highly motivated and high energy person that I have had the opportunity to work with on several occasions. He has excellent knowledge of emergency management and the fire service. John is always willing to help out when the need arises. This was evidenced on March 8, 2017 when John volunteered his time/resources to help Sherburne County Emergency Services Director K. Breffle with the preliminary damage assessment process during the assessment/recovery phase from the March 6, 2017 EF 1 tornado that struck Sherburne County. Without a doubt, John Cunningham is fully qualified to lead the Minnesota State Fire Chief’s Association into the future as its President.
I met Chief T. John Cunningham when he first made is journey to the State of Minnesota as a Fire Chief. He was ambitious to begin his new role coming from an active agency on the East Coast. Since day one, John began to build relationships and assess what was best for the organization he was now to lead. His direction was to “take it to the next level”. That is not always an easy path to take as it requires courage, reflection, understanding, empathy and personal sacrifices. Turning the wheel on a large ship that is set in GPS mode can come with personal burden and the need to compromise. I had the honor of sitting on his fire departments strategic planning process to set the new course. Throughout the process he was able to engage a number of groups from firefighters, fire officers, city council members, and other agencies to define what the future could look like. He then worked with the planning committee to define the organizations strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Over the course of a year, and still today, he has worked hard to guide a new path for the Elk River Fire Department. I have personally seen the organization move into one of the most respected agencies in the area. He has worked to bring pride and honor back into the organization and focuses on cutting edge technology and training to better his staff and city as a whole. I have also served with John as we travel across the state and country to honor our fallen firefighters. He is actively involved in the Fallen Firefighter Memorial program though the Fire Service Foundation and walks the talk. John continues to educate himself earning a Master Degree and certifications others don’t have. He stays active in state and national organizations so he is informed on the future of the fire service and works proactively to put things in place prior to them occurring. Above all, John is a very nice person who cares about others feelings and is willing to listen. His ability to work well with others is one of his greatest assets. If elected as the President of the MN Fire Chiefs Association, John would likely use some of the same tools he has in the past to successfully bring our organization to the next level while maintaining positive relationships and the focusing on our member interests. I fully support this candidacy and proud of who he has become.
I have worked with John Cunningham over the past year on a variety of work issues. I have found John to be a dedicated, intelligent and self-motivated professional with high levels of personal and professional integrity. In addition to John’s leadership and emergency management skills as Fire Chief, he strives to continually improve work performance. John takes the initiative to tackle challenges to streamlined department operations, increase performance and improve accountability. In addition to successfully managing his position responsibilities, John has made significant and positive contributions to many other areas of the city. John is highly respected and a valued leader