David Pennington is Springfield Fire Department’s fire chief and a graduate of Leadership Springfield’s Signature Class 30. A Springfield native, Pennington began his journey toward chief as a volunteer firefighter over 25 years ago. His years of service since then have given him a broad technical and relational foundation for the role he now holds. He credits Leadership Springfield with broadening his perspective area-wide.
When David talks about his “best class” experience, he remembers a group that was more like family than classmates. He recalls a sense that the entire class had come together with a common goal–to make Springfield better. His time at Leadership Springfield extended his scope beyond the fire department’s day-to-day into the wider needs of the whole community. Chief Pennington believes this broadened perspective makes Leadership Springfield particularly beneficial for public safety officers like him, allowing them to observe how their work overlaps with parts of the community that they don’t often see.
In his nearly three years as fire chief, Pennington has focused on personal development for his team, earning him the Ambassador of the Year Award from the Center for Public Safety Excellence. He is quick to give full credit to the excellent work of the entire Springfield Fire Department, saying the award is a reflection of the extraordinary men and women who serve. He also gives ample credit for the Springfield Fire Department’s success to the amazing support that they receive from the community and its managers, along with the excellent leadership of past administrators.
Chief Pennington is a leader with a focus on collaboration. He is apt to engage in important and challenging conversations with other community leaders in order to address the needs of Springfield and is quick to put aside ego for the good of those in his charge. He is grateful for the responsive collaboration that he has experienced with organizations like Community Partnership of the Ozarks, the United Way, Community Foundation of the Ozarks, city officials, and with the entire Springfield community. He remarks that we have an engaged and eager community that is quick to step up and help. That kind of bonding capital and community engagement, he believes, is what makes Springfield exceptional.
David likes to stay connected with the community through his involvement on the United Way and Community Partnership of the Ozarks Boards, as well as his service with Missouri’s Office of Homeland Security. He has a passion for youth safety and development, for helping others, and for seeing people succeed. Beyond volunteering, David enjoys visiting small businesses around town, like downtown coffee shops and the restaurants along Pickwick, where the owners and staff know him by name. He also loves spending time with his wife of 26 years and their two sons. The family enjoys the outdoors, visiting Springfield area parks and trails.
When asked what words of wisdom he would impart to future leaders, Chief Pennington emphasized that leadership happens at every level, not just at the top, and said, ”Leadership is all about people. It’s about taking care of others without ego. It is important to be honest, to be transparent, and to do the right thing.” He continued by saying, “Leadership is not about you. It is an ongoing process of service to others and gaining credibility through that service.”