T. John Cunningham

Highly motivated and accomplished emergency response professional with over 20 years in the fire service with a strong background in team-based strategic planning and collaboration, organizational change and growth, innovation, entrepreneurship, customer service, training, education, and coaching/mentoring.  A trusted, decisive leader and decision maker who believes in building and developing organizations based on integrity, objectivity, accountability, diversity, and creative thought.

Emergency Service Experience
City of Brooklyn Park (Brooklyn Park, MN)
Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Management2018-Present

With a growing and diverse (51%) population of 80,000 residents, Brooklyn Park is the second largest suburb of Minneapolis-Saint Paul and the sixth largest city in Minnesota.  The fire department answers over 9,900 calls for service a year, 7,471 (75%) of which are emergency medical related.  The Fire Chief is responsible for providing strategic direction across the department and its divisions including administration, operations, professional standards, and fire marshal/communication risk reduction.

  • Provides strategic and complex planning, project management, and administrative oversight of the department including 46 sworn and 2 civilian staff.
  • Completed a comprehensive strategic planning process that involved internal (staff) and external (community) stakeholders; developed and implemented an 18-month operational plan that included the addition of additional front-line supervisors and staff.
  • Created a Division of Professional Standards and a second Deputy Chief’s position to plan, direct, and coordinate training, professional development, and quality/continuous improvement.
  • Committed to creating a department that is more reflective of the community’s diversity by establishing a Fire/EMS Cadet Academy to provide the necessary training and education to achieve a career into the department; the first recruitment effort yielded over 400 applications.
  • Launched a comprehensive fire station assessment and study to provide a long-term plan for the department’s facilities.
  • Responsible for a managing a $6.6 million operating budget.
  • Reporting directly to the City Manager, the Fire Chief is part of the city’s senior leadership team.
President (re-elected to serve a second two-year term)
Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association2018-Present

The Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association (MSFCA) is made up of more than 2,000 senior fire officers that represent nearly 500 departments statewide.  The MSFCA is a member-driven organization that provides valuable information and training to its members on a wide variety of technical, operational, and policy-oriented topics.

  • Serves as the official representative of the Association; serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors which is comprised of over 20 voting members.
  • In collaboration and support of the Board of Directors, provides direction the Association’s 14 committees and 20+ external appointments.
  • Advocates for and on behalf of fire departments and chief officers throughout the state; supports legislative initiatives.
  • Provide support to the Association’s conference and educational programming including the creation of a second Fire Officer and Training Officer School and the development of a new Leadership Development Cohort in 2020 for emerging fire service leaders.
City of Elk River (Elk River, MN)
Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Management2009-2018

The Elk River Fire Department serves three cities with a population of approximately 33,000 within a 66-square mile coverage area.  As Fire Chief, oversaw five functional divisions including administration, fire/rescue operations, fire and building safety inspections, training, and city code enforcement.  

  • Responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the department and providing strategic direction and planning.
  • Developed, established, revised, and implemented internal policies, procedures, schedules, and other operating practices, rules, and regulations consistent with City Council directives, policies, and ordinances.  Built and maintained relationships internally and externally. 
  • Provided senior on-scene incident command, support, leadership, and direction.
  • Provided direction and oversight of the city’s fire, building, and rental licensing inspection programs and the city’s code enforcement division, a combination of city services that was brought into the department in 2012.
  • Served as the city’s Director of Emergency Management and Safety Coordinator; implemented new programs, policies, and educational opportunities.
  • Prepared and oversaw the department’s annual operating budget and was responsible for forecasting long-term capital expenditures, including apparatus and fixed assets.
  • Facilitated the development of the department’s first strategic plan that included ten actionable strategic initiatives, the implementation of a new mission statement and core values, and the expansion of the department’s on-call staffing model, officer cadre, and in-house training program.
  • Launched the Elk River Fire Academy in 2014 that has since grown to a multi-county recruit training program that attained 100% certification testing and improved retention.
  • Developed the department’s Technical Rescue Team and Honor Guard unit.
  • Led the implementation of a new records management and mobile data/preplanning system.
  • Led the upgrade of the city’s outdoor warning siren/mass notification system.
  • Created new revenue opportunities and enhanced existing programs/services by streamlining services and providing value-added services to the public and neighboring jurisdictions.
  • Expanded the department’s online and social media footprint, including the launch of regular firefighter recognition initiatives and volunteer opportunities.
Sound Beach Volunteer Fire Department (Old Greenwich, CT)
District Fire Chief1997-2009

Located in Greenwich, CT, the Sound Beach Volunteer Fire Department (SBVFD) is a division of the Greenwich Fire Department, a combination department that serves a population of over 61,000 residents within 47 square miles.  The SBVFD is the designated Technical Rescue department for the town and responds to all major incidents requiring extrication, rope rescue, confined space rescue, trench rescue, collapse rescue, and water rescue (surface and SCUBA).

  • Responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the department including personnel, equipment, purchasing, public relations and equipment maintenance.
  • Direct on-scene operations as the incident commander with direct supervisory experience of both volunteer and career personnel in a town-wide combination department of over 200 personnel.
  • Oversaw and managed the department’s annual operating budget including capital and apparatus purchases.
  • Obtained a FEMA grant to purchase interoperable communications equipment, hazardous materials equipment, and training to enhance the department’s swift-water rescue capabilities in correlation with NIMS resource typing.
  • Received extensive training in technical rescue operations and led the department’s technical rescue team and the dive team.
  • Served as the public information officer (PIO).  Credited with implementing new technology initiatives and enhancing the department’s website to increase public awareness, education and fund-raising efforts.
  • Oversaw the upgrade of the department’s radio communication’s system to replace obsolete equipment and to enhance local and regional interoperability.
  • Developed and delivered comprehensive training programs to new members and oversee regular training sessions for emergency personnel.
  • Held the positions of Assistant Chief, Captain, Lieutenant, and Firefighter prior to being promoted to district fire chief.
Connecticut Urban Search and Rescue Team (CT-TF1)
Planning/Technical Information Specialist2003-2009

Connecticut Task Force 1 is a highly trained disaster response team with 128 members and a multi-million dollar equipment cache.  The Task Force is capable of rapid mobilization to assist in natural and manmade disasters within the State of Connecticut and across the country.

  • Responsible for documenting, tracking, and retrieving all pertinent information for the Task Force during emergency incidents and daily operations.
  • Advised and assisted the task force/team leaders in evaluating incident situations, setting goals, and objectives.
  • Coordinated and assisted in the development of after-action reports.
  • Assisted in the continued development of the team’s interoperable communications system.
  • Operational/exercise experience includes TopOff 3 and three collapse incidents in Connecticut.
Consulting Experience and Affiliations
  • Multi-disciplined public safety educator and consultant with a focus on incident management, disaster response, leadership/teamwork, technology, and fireground tactics/strategy. 
  • Prior Unit Leader and Honor Guard Commander, Ceremonies Unit, Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial (St. Paul).
  • Coordinated and facilitated a statewide multi-agency public safety broadband table-top and functional exercise using next-generation wireless technology.  Pilot included the deployment of a band class 14 (“FirstNet”) LTE network.  Exercise was a first-of-its kind in the country.
  • Member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).
  • Former board member of the Minnesota Statewide Emergency Communications Board (SECB) and former co-chair of the SECB Interoperable Data Committee (IDC).
  • Assisted in the planning, coordination, and execution of large-scale disaster response training exercises in Bridgeport, CT, Oklahoma City, OK and Kansas City, KS.  Primary areas of responsibility included logistics management, exercise planning, and radio communications as well as assisting the command staff in project oversight and execution.
Other Professional Experience
Sirius Innovations, LLC
Solutions Consultant (Monroe, CT)2002-2009

Sirius Innovations is a technology consulting and custom application development company. Focused expertise in government, emergency service, non-profit, health care, and small-medium sized businesses and organizations.

Third Alarm Productions, LLC (Old Greenwich, CT)

Third Alarm Productions, LLC is a provider of technology driven solutions including custom web-based applications, multimedia development, technology consulting, IT outsourcing, e-Learning applications, security and identification services, and computer/network sales.

University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
Masters of Professional Studies, Homeland Security LeadershipDecember, 2015
University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
Certificate, Collaborative Leadership in Homeland SecurityNovember, 2008
Fairfield University (Fairfield, CT)
Bachelor of Science, Management2009-2013