Climbing the Ladder: Alumni Spotlight – Paul Berardi (M.P.A. ’02)

Bloch School of Management graduates are enjoying exciting and rewarding careers all over the Kansas City region, and all over the world. Bloch alumni at different stages in their careers are in leadership roles in important organizations; are viewed as rising stars with significant leadership potential; or are enjoying a fast start right out of the gate.

This is one of a series of profiles of Bloch alumni who have used their education as a launching pad for early and ongoing success.

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For Paul Berardi (M.P.A. ’02), leadership and perseverance are part of his job description. Currently serving as Fire Chief for the City of Kansas City, Mo., Berardi spends each day working to improve the safety of the city’s residents.

Beginning his career as a firefighter in 1986, Berardi hadn’t completed formal education prior to taking the job. Experiential learning is critical as a line firefighter and emergency medical technician, and was integral in the early years of his work with the KCFD.

“It was essential to learn the job from the ground up as a firefighter,” Berardi said. “But I wanted a formal education to supplement my on-the-job experience.”

His aspirations prompted Berardi to earn both an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science and Bachelor of Business Administration from regional institutions.

Berardi always hoped to move up through the ranks. When he was named Deputy Chief in 2001, Berardi knew he should prepare for the next steps up the ladder.

“I had a sense of responsibility to prepare myself, should the opportunity arise to become Chief,” Berardi says. “It’s a huge role, and I wanted to be confident in my decision and leadership.”

Berardi enrolled in the M.P.A. program to hone his skills and learn how to steer an organization.

“It was perfect match because my career was public administration,” Berardi explained. “Studying it formally primed me to take the leap to Chief.”

Berardi said the program resonated with him on an even deeper level in the last few years, as he moved into leadership roles, and away from the front line of providing care. These days, he is focused on developing policies, budgets and strategic plans to help the fire department run as efficiently as possible.

One particular project Berardi managed is the acquisition of a private ambulance company. This merger allows the fire department to provide comprehensive, integrated services to the community. And according to Berardi, serving others is what it’s all about.

“Simply, it’s just really rewarding to help people, and to do so in a responsible manner in partnership with the rest of city government.” he says. “It’s why I’m proud to work in public safety.”

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