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.
During 2015 I was part of an LTE Public Safety Broadband Trail Project involving public and private partners. This trial project took place in the City of Elk River. Chief Cunningham provided excellent leadership and passion for this cutting edge technology. Subsequent to this project Chief Cunningham has provided educational outreach at conferences and at other training sessions regarding the national Public Safety Broadband Network, commonly know as FirstNet. Chief Cunningham’s passion for innovation and technology advancement are exceptional. John Cunningham would be an excellent President of 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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 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.