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 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 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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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 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.