John Turner ’15 has been blessed with many leadership opportunities since the completion of his master’s degree at Newman University, of which the most significant was becoming Derby, Kansas Fire Chief July 1, 2019.
Turner was a leader in the Wichita Fire Department for more than 30 years and had been searching for a way to further his education while working full time.
He found the perfect fit for his busy schedule: Newman’s Master of Organizational Leadership. The Newman School of Education began offering the degree program in 2013.
“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 and earning accolades such as Wichita Firefighter of the Year and State Firefighter of the Year. His advanced degree has strengthened his ability 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 wasn’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 including responding to fires, medical emergencies, special rescue situations and chemical leaks.
As fire chief, Turner plays a significant leadership role, recommending and managing the budget, overseeing human resources, enforcing fire code, leading 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.
“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.
Derby Fire and Rescue has had tremendous leadership before and already has a great reputation so new goals are not a priority for Turner, he said.
“My first 90 days, I’m going to learn 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.”
As for his Newman experience, Turner was thankful for the well-designed master’s degree program and his overall experience in the classroom.
“I highly recommend Newman University. The school still reflects Christian values in an age of progressivism on college campuses. It was refreshing to have a true discourse of ideas and not an indoctrination of political correctness and liberal idealism.”