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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Please accept my enthusiastic recommendation of Chief John Cunningham for the position of President of the Minnesota State Fire Chief’s Association. I work currently in the public safety software industry in the capacity of managing engineer for all fire service products. However, I am recently retired from full time service with the City of Racine, WI Fire Department with the rank of Battalion Chief, number two in command, and having served thirty four years. I came to be introduced and then worked closely with Chief Cunningham in many difficult and challenging projects. His knowledge of the fire service and how it fits in with other emergency and non-emergency agencies in an effort to achieve goals is second to none. His technical knowledge of records management systems and how they are used to provide information and analytics is superior. Over the course of the more than four years we have been acquainted, Chief Cunningham has become my first choice when I need someone truly grounded in all aspects of the fire service. It is my hope that he will also be that asset to the great State of Minnesota!
It is with great honor that I get to work with Fire Chief Cunningham and also call him a mentor and friend. Chief is dedicated and passionate about his career, family, and friends. As a mentor Chief has taught me a lot about communications in crisis, technology in communications, and I even had the opportunity to follow the 2015 Fire Academy and document their journey. His ability to read and be aware of what is going on with the people around him and what their needs may be not only comes in handy for his job but in his home life. Chief Cunningham has opened up his work and personal life through the creation of the Elk River Blue Ribbon Challenge to impact lives of the residents of Elk River and beyond. He has taken risks to share pieces of his life and touching the hearts of many along the way. Chief has shown great bravery in taking these risks to impact lives to make sure that everyone knows that every life matters, that we can live in a culture of appreciation, love, and respect, and that “Who I Am Makes A Difference®” Chief Cunningham is a strong leader, a great mentor, and treasured friend who will always have your back!
I have been asked to submit a letter of recommendation for John Cunningham to be considered for the next President of the Minnesota Fire Chiefs association. I am both honored to have been asked and extremely pleased to do so. I have worked for and as A City Manger for close to 50 years. During that time I have worked with fire chiefs in cities from 225,000 to 9,000 residents. The types of departments have ranged from full time professional departments, to mixed professional and paid on call to fully volunteer independent departments. All forms being unique and serving the individual and residents by protecting them and their properties. I currently serve as the President of the Coon Rapids Minnesota Police and Fire Service Civil Service Commission, allowing me to keep current with the fire service and its needs. I started working with Chief Cunningham when I became Interim City Administrator in Elk River Minnesota in 2011. John and I worked together for a little over six months and during that time we established a strong professional relationship. John was relatively new to the City as Fire Chief, having been appointed by the City Council based on his extensive fire experience in Greenwich, Connecticut. The major issue that John was facing in Elk River was the transition from a more traditional volunteer based department to a more urban fire department that would serve several cities. He was extremely skilled at articulating the needed changes and transitions as well as maintaining the necessary balance in recognizing many of the traditions and history of the Elk River volunteer department. He was able to not only present the changes needed in a clear and professional manor but also explain the benefits of the changes to the firefighters as well as the elected officials. As a manager I came to have great respect for the chief’s knowledge as well as the demonstrated leadership skills. From my perspective, The Minnesota Fire Chief Association would be well served by Having John Cunningham as its President. John is articulate, and skilled at presenting ideas in a clear professional manner. He is extremely knowledgeable in the delivery of fire protection services. He would be an exceptionally polished face for the organization and would provide skill, attention to detail, strong leadership and energy to the organization. I believe the firefighters across the state would be proud to have John represent them and would enhance the public’s current strong perception of the Minnesota Fire Service.
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 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.
John Cunningham is an experienced and well respected fire chief and emergency management professional. He has vast knowledge in both the technical and management aspects of his profession. His dedication, high ethical standards, and expertise make him a strong, confident, and effective leader.