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Jim Silvernail

Fire Chief
City of Kirkwood

Location: Kirkwood, MO
Founded: 1865
Industry: Public Safety

The Kirkwood Fire Department is an organization rich in tradition, with a visionary eye toward the future. In May 2016, Chief Silvernail took the role of fire chief and accepted the challenge of modernizing this proud organization.

One of his first steps was to develop a strategic plan to bridge the gap between the current reality and the desired outcome of effective service delivery and community satisfaction. The plan included a cultural evolution and a command structure realignment, as well as expanding services through community cooperatives and interagency agreements.

“Visionary leadership is starting from a beginning point, forecasting the road ahead (including both hurdles and opportunities), and steering toward the ideal organizational outcome. Gimmicks and shortcuts don’t work. Decision-making must focus on the big picture, free of personal agenda and appeasement,” said Silvernail. “Decision-making must also be decisive. The worst thing that a leader can do to lose credibility, kill morale and demonstrate ineffectiveness is to not make timely, critical decisions. Leaders who commit to informed decisions gain organizational trust and respect.”

In 2020, Chief Silvernail was instrumental in forming a partnership with the City of Glendale. Through an inter-agency contract, he was appointed joint Fire Chief for the Kirkwood Fire/Rescue and the Glendale Fire Departments. This type of consortium was a unique and revolutionary undertaking in the region, previously dominated by separation and division of public services.

It achieved effective synergies between the cities and provided a more cost-effective approach to emergency service delivery, consolidating both departments into one functional unit.

Chief Silvernail also reorganized the department’s command structure to capture and enhance divisional functions within the organization and develop a more effective span of control. This was essential in affecting the cultural evolution required in the strategic development process.

Beyond his own community, Chief Silvernail works to advance fire service, serving in both national and international roles. He has been a technical committee member of NFPA 170, setting the standard for the fire service response and providing industry best practices. He also served as a board member of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors and as advisor to Fire Engineering Magazine and the Fire Department Instructors Conference.

Chief Silvernail serves as the 1st Vice President of the Missouri Valley Division of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and is slated to be appointed president in 2023. He has published an industry textbook, “Suburban Fire Tactics,” as well as various tactical articles in the industry press. He is viewed as one of the country’s top subject matter experts regarding tactical implementation in the American suburban market.

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Jim is a dedicated father of four wonderful children. He was active in their lives growing up through various sports and activities. One of his favorite activities was announcing for his son's football games. Jim was the official football announcer for his son's teams from 3rd grade until high school junior varsity.

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