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 known T. John Cunningham since he was a young member of the Sound Beach Volunteer Fire Department. As the Assistant Chief of the Greenwich Fire Department, I was fortunate to witness his professional growth in the Fire Service as he matured and rose thru the officer ranks. His dedication to those he protected was unmatched. His constant drive to always improve the rescue skills of the fire fighters in the department was impressive. His mastery, and sharing, of all of the his Technical Rescue skills helped create a first class Technical Rescue team that responded town wide. As an Instructor, he demonstrated a unique ability to make difficult concepts easily understood and remembered. When I was informed that he was being considered for Chief of Elk River, I was both sad that we were losing his talents, and really happy for him and the residents of Elk River. It is my opinion that It would be difficult to find a better qualified, or more dedicated, leader for Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association than T. John Cunningham.
To the Board of Directors and members of the MSFCA, my name is Lori Morgan and I have been with the Sherburne Co Sheriff’s Office since 1993 and was promoted to Dispatch Supervisor in 2012. I have known John Cunningham since he came to work for the City of Elk River in 2009. When John first came to work as the Fire Chief, he was not only new to Elk River but also new to us in dispatch – and as you can imagine, that can be a bit of a challenge on both sides. Once we began to build a relationship, I came to rely on John’s advice and knowledge. Because of the relationship we were able to build, it has only enhanced fire dispatching in Sherburne Co. I attend the bi-monthly fire chief’s meetings and when John is there, I know I have an ally. He was key in deciphering much of the rhetoric in the beginning and I know I can call him after a meeting for a “debriefing,” He has worked with me to set up fire training specifically designed for firefighters and dispatchers to come together to gain a better understanding of each other’s jobs and the unique challenges we both face. I have nothing but respect and appreciation for everything he has accomplished while here and I look forward to facing the challenges of our growing community and meeting those needs together. John would be an excellent President of the MSFCA!
I have been employed with the Elk River Police Department for 24 years. Chief Cunningham is the third Fire Chief I have worked with. Like his two predecessors, Chief Cunningham is professional, knowledgeable and committed to his department. Chief Cunningham fosters relationships not only with other Fire Departments, but with all of the local, county and State Law Enforcement agencies that fall within his fire district. I have personally worked many scenes with Chief Cunningham, and he is always willing to assist the Police Department in any way he can. I would not hesitate to recommend Chief Cunningham for the position of President of the MSFCA. He will bring a new level of professionalism, service and excellence to the Fire Service!
I have never met anyone that has the drive and determination that T. John has. I watched him grow from a young Fire Explorer into a very well trained and respected leader of the Sound Beach Vol. Fire Department. His always puts in 110% into any task that is assigned to him or that is takes on. This is demonstrated by him becoming a member of the CT Task Force and his service during the attacks of 9/11. T.John is a true leader and I would recommend him for ANY type of leadership position in the public service area.
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.
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.
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 gets my highest recommendation. He has consistently shown that he is a leader of high integrity, astute awareness, and possesses a compassion for humanity that goes above and beyond the call of duty. John speaks from his heart, takes inspired action and encourages others to do the same. In my experience, it is rare to meet a man of such high quality.
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 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.