T. John Cunningham
Public Safety Professional

Highly motivated and accomplished public safety professional with over 25 years’ experience in public safety with a strong background in team-based strategic planning, collaboration, and transformative organizational change and growth. 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 population of more than 86,000 residents, Brooklyn Park is the second largest suburb of Minneapolis-Saint Paul and the sixth largest city in Minnesota. The fire department answers over 8,200 calls for service a year, 72% are emergency medical related. Responsible for providing strategic direction across the department and its divisions including administration, operations, professional standards, and fire marshal/community risk reduction. Oversees emergency management related functions across the city including a multi-discipline Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

  • Provides strategic and complex planning, project management, and administrative oversight.
  • Completed a comprehensive strategic planning process that involved internal (staff) and external (community) stakeholders. Developed and implemented a multi-year operational plan that included hiring additional full-time firefighters and supervisors to improve emergency service delivery.
  • Led a successful community-driven recruitment and hiring initiative; created the first-ever Fire/EMS Cadet Academy to provide the necessary training and education to achieve a full-time career into the department. The first recruitment effort yielded over 400 applications.
  • Led the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as the Incident Commander for the public-safety Emergency Operations Center (EOC); created a Community Support Branch to help ensure that resources were being appropriately distributed throughout the city including traditionally marginalized communities.
  • Coordinated and collaborated with local, county, and state law enforcement agencies, EMS providers, fire departments, and the Minnesota National Guard on the response to regional civil unrest; activated the city’s EOC as a multi-agency coordination center to assist with coordinating emergency responses in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.
  • Launched a comprehensive fire station assessment; preparing a $60+ million capital improvement plan to address fire station deficiencies and to accommodate a growing and diverse workforce.
  • Expanded the fire marshal division to focus the organization on community-driven risk reduction initiatives and to help address disparities in prehospital healthcare.
  • Launched several mental health initiatives including confidential access to licensed mental health clinicians and yearly check-ups.
  • Deploying a new records management system to improve the organization’s ability to make data-driven decisions; creating new public-facing data dashboards to improve transparency.
  • Received two federal grants including over $3M to hire 12 additional full-time firefighters.
  • Reporting directly to the City Manager, the Fire Chief is part of the city’s senior leadership team.
Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association2018-Present

The Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association (MSFCA) is made up of more than 1,500 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.

  • Elected to a third, two-year term as President; longest serving President in the history of the organization.
  • Created a statewide COVID-19 Task Force to provide policy, operational, and logistical support; coordinating directly with the Commissioner of Public Safety’s office and State EOC to distribute PPE to front-line responders.
  • In collaboration with MSFCA regional directors and the State Fire Marshal Division, coordinated several large in-state and out-of-state mutual aid requests.
  • 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 from across the state.
  • 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; oversee state and federal legislative advocacy activities.
  • Provide support to the Association’s conference and educational programming including the creation of a second Fire Officer and Training Officer School.
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, including 45 volunteer/on-call firefighters, and providing strategic direction and planning.
  • Served as the city’s Director of Emergency Management and Safety Coordinator; implemented new programs, policies, and educational opportunities.
  • 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.
  • 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. As the designated Technical Rescue company for the town, SBVFD responds to 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 volunteer department including personnel, equipment, purchasing, public relations, and equipment maintenance.
  • Direct on-scene operations as the incident commander.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 over 100 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
  • President/CEO of Split Rock Consulting, a transformative consulting and organizational development company.
  • Completed the Shannon Leadership Institute (previously part of Wilder Foundation) in 2022.
  • Multi-disciplined public safety educator with a focus on incident management, disaster response, leadership/teamwork, technology, and fireground tactics/strategy. Previous instructor for an active shooter/hostile event training program developed in Minnesota.
  • Prior Unit Leader and Honor Guard Commander, Ceremonies Unit, Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial (St. Paul).
  • Member of the Public Safety Commissioner’s Fire Service Advisory Committee, Line of Duty Death Determination Committee, and the Minnesota Fire Association Coalition (MnFAC).
  • Former board member of the Minnesota Statewide Emergency Communications Board (SECB) and former co-chair of the SECB Interoperable Data Committee (IDC).
  • 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.
  • 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 was 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