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 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 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.
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.
ProPhoenix Corporation has had the pleasure of working on innovative projects and ideas with Chief Cunningham since 2010. John is always searching for ways to leverage technology to improve the fire services he offers the citizens of Elk River and surrounding areas. Our staff finds John to be a smart, dedicated professional who is always willing support our product development and willing offers to test new ideas and features. With his passion for innovation and technology, I am quite confident Chief Cunningham will lead the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs into the next era of Fire and Public Services. John is an outstanding candidate for the position of President of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association. We know he will proudly and competently lead this organization into the future. You will all be proud of his leadership.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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!