Thomas Forward, Tampa Fire Rescue Chief
Chief Forward began his career with Tampa Fire Rescue in October 1983. With more than 30 years of dedicated service, Chief Forward is a dynamic leader who has gained the respect of his fellow firefighters and superiors.
First assigned to the Hazardous Materials Team in 1985, Forward has steadily risen through the ranks serving as Driver-Engineer, Paramedic, Captain, Rescue Field Supervisor, Community Liaison Officer, Division Chief, Special Operations Chief, Training Chief, Personnel Chief, and Asst. Chief of Administration where he was responsible for the proper management and direction of the department's more than $50 million budget. Additionally, Forward oversaw the management of the Communications Division (Emergency 911 Dispatch Center), the Vehicle Maintenance Division, the Supply and Logistics Division, and the Technology and Information Division of Tampa Fire Rescue.
Since 2008, Forward has been tasked with managing the City of Tampa's Emergency Operations Center and successfully led the activation of the center during Super Bowl XLIII, the 2017 College Football Playoffs national championship game, the annual Gasparilla activities, and most recently the activation for Hurricane Irma. Forward was also instrumental in producing for the first time an integrated Emergency Operations Center that, in addition to the normal emergency support functions, incorporated and housed agencies representing local, county, regional, state and federal partners to provide oversight for the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. Forward has twice been assigned to the State of Florida Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee to coordinate fire, rescue and hazardous materials response.
In addition to his career with Tampa Fire Rescue, Forward served four years of active duty with the United States Army and two years in the active Army Reserves. For almost 21 years he served in the Florida Air National Guard, retiring in November 2004 with the rank of Senior Master Sergeant and First Sergeant from the 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base. While at MacDill, Forward was the senior non-commissioned officer responsible for the morale and welfare of the squadron's more than 250 airmen and service personnel. During his military career, he received numerous military awards and decorations.
Forward is active in various professional organizations including the Florida Fire Chiefs Association, Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, International Association of Firefighters, the National Fire Protection Agency and formerly the International Association of Professional Black Firefighters and the Florida Public Employer Labor Relations Association. He is also a member of the Air Force Sergeant's Association and the Enlisted National Guard Association of the United States.
He is involved in the local community including his church, Grace Mary Missionary Baptist, where he is a deacon and chairman of the board of trustees. He currently serves as an Executive Officer of the City of Tampa's Black History Committee, and is an active participant for the past ten years with the annual Paint Your Heart Out Tampa Program. He also formerly volunteered as a member on the Hillsborough County Tax Collector's Outside Advisory Board.
Forward holds a Master of Arts Degree in Management from the University of Phoenix, a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Northwood University, Associates of Science Degrees in Fire Science and Electronic Systems Technology from Hillsborough Community College and Community College of the Air Force respectively.
He and his wife Cynthia have three children: Miortis, Lakia, and Thomas II.