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 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 had the opportunity to hear Chief Cunningham’s memorial speech on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I still have the blue ribbon he shared with us that day. It serves as a visual reminder of the impact of everyday people. For those of us with family in law enforcement and the fire service, that reminder and public show of appreciation is priceless. Too often, the sacrifices of emergency personnel, and their families, go unnoticed. I am proud of their passion to serve. Thank you, Chief Cunningham, for your volunteer efforts at Ground Zero. Thank you also for your many years in public service since then. Your challenge to bring the community (and beyond) together is truly a measure of your character and dedication to this community.
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 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!
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 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 have had the pleasure of working with Chief Cunningham for many years in many capacities. In addition to the daily dispatcher/firefighter relationship, we have also worked together on CAD implementation and issues as well as both being members of the Sherburne County All Hazard Incident Management Team. I worked with him on the FirstNet Interoperability exercise as well as a tabletop FEMA exercise. John is always professional and courteous and is always looking for ways to make situations better, always wanting to prepare for the future, John is very knowledgeable and innovative and I have always had the utmost respect for him. I believe he is an excellent candidate for President of MSFCA and if selected would serve Minnesota.