John Turner

Fire chief thankful for leadership skills


John Turner was in the Wichita Fire Department for more than 30 years, most recently serving as Wichita fire battalion chief and division leader. When he was with the Wichita department, he had been searching for a way to further his education while working full time.

He found the perfect fit for his busy schedule and his career. Newman University was offering a Master of Organizational Leadership designed for full-time working adults like Turner.

“The program went fast, I liked every minute and learned a lot. Unfortunately, I had to graduate and move on,” he laughed.

Turner has always had a knack for leadership; teaching courses for work and earning accolades such as Wichita Firefighter of the Year and State Firefighter of the Year. His advanced degree has strengthened his abilities to achieve larger leadership roles, he said.

“My master’s degree has opened an endless amount of doors for me,” Turner said. “I was selected by the National Fire Academy to teach Leadership and Supervision training across the United States. Since I have been involved, I have made several great connections across the country. 

“I was also selected to the Fire Service Executive Development Institute in Virginia. This was a two-year program designed to groom future fire chiefs. I would not have been selected to this program if it weren’t for my advanced degree. All of this has led up to opening the biggest door and that is the fire chief position for Derby.”

Outside of law enforcement, he is responsible for almost all emergency activities in the city of Derby including responding to fires, medical emergencies, special rescue situations and chemical leaks.

He will also recommend and manage the department’s budget and oversee its human resources, enforce fire code, lead investigations of fires and more. His degree has also helped him conduct training and public education programs.

Transitioning to a new community and taking on a new role can be a challenge but Turner has been grateful for entering into such a welcoming and supportive community.

“There is a lot to take in moving to a new community and starting a new position. Everyone has been very helpful and the community has a history of supporting our organization. The transition has been good and I’m glad I took this opportunity.”

Turner relocated from Wichita to Derby to fill the fire chief position and is looking forward to the challenges in his new position.

“Derby is a growing community with a reputation of having great leadership at the political and management levels. I’m looking forward to meeting the demands of a rapidly growing community and the challenge of having the fire department keeping pace with those responsibilities,” he said.

According to Turner, Derby Fire and Rescue has been led with tremendous leadership and has a great reputation, so creating new goals for the organization is not a priority.

“My first 90 days focused on learning as much about the personnel and culture of the organization as possible. After we evaluate where we are currently, we will start setting goals. Because we have been such a well-led organization, I don’t feel I’m here to fix problems. My goal is to set a vision together once we identify our capabilities and resources.”

Earning an advanced degree was always of interest to Turner and he was grateful to have his experience at Newman University. He said the program was well designed and he enjoyed his overall experience in the classroom.