Carla Fuss-Cummings serves her Perkins community both as mayor and as an educator.

Story by Van Mitchell, Staff Writer

Perkins Mayor Carla Fuss-Cummings said becoming an educator was a family tradition.
“I had a grandmother, I had lots of aunts and uncles and cousins in the education field. I just felt from a young age in high school, I knew I wanted to be a coach and PE teacher,” she said. “It’s a passion. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have a really good job.”
Fuss-Cummings, who is in her 28th year of education, said she enjoys working with students helping them reach their full potential.
“What keeps me going is I get to go to work and do something I truly love,” she said. I joke around with my students all the time. I’m like, dude, I was going to be an English teacher, but have you seen how they have to dress? And I get to wear athletic clothes every day. It’s hard to explain sometimes except for all I can say is it’s a calling from God. And He gave me a gift and I try to use it to the best of my ability. And I do wake up looking forward to going to work.”
Fuss-Cummings grew up in Pawnee where she graduated high school. Her collegiate journey would soon begin, and it took some twists and turns.
“My ex-husband was in the military and we moved around a lot, but I finished,” she said. “I got my associate’s degree from Murray State College in Tishomingo, and then got married. He was assigned to an Air Force base in Kansas, I went to Wichita State University for a year and a half, then got shipped off to England. My education was on pause for a while, and I moved to New Mexico and taught at a private Christian school and also went to New Mexico State in Las Cruces. After moving to Andrews AFB in Maryland, I finished up my education at the University of Maryland with a kinesiology degree, Summa Cum Laude”
Fuss-Cummings returned to Pawnee after her ex-husband was discharged from the military, then later got her job at Perkins-Tryon, where she serves as the PE teacher with the intermediate school with the third, fourth, and fifth graders. She also gives private softball lessons and umpires some school ball.
“Right now, we’re in cooperative days activities,” she said. “I do what we call a sports education curriculum, and I take each sport unit and I set it up as a mini-season. Each class will have three teams and two teams are playing and one team is actually being the official team. They’re doing the scoreboard. I mean, they get some real-life experiences.”
Fuss-Cummings said her students also make team posters and hang in the gym.
“We get the computers out and we draw, we make posters, it gives them a little bit of ownership and freedom,” she said.
Carla Fuss-Cummings said sportsmanship is a key component in teaching her students.
“We are currently in a cooperative activities unit,” she said. “There’s a lot of structure to it, but we have fun. I only see my students every three days on a three-day rotation. I try to make sure we’re getting a little bit of fitness. I want to help teach them how to treat each other right now, before we get into some competition activities, because I feel like, well, number one, kids learn through play more than what people think. They learn so many life skills through play.
We talk about how competition can bring out the good you or the negative you. If we’re playing a game, someone’s going to win and someone’s going to lose. And, we have to learn how to win with humility and lose with some dignity. And we don’t pout. We work to get better because it’s trying to find that balance between having fun and nobody wants to lose.”
Fuss-Cummings talks to her students about learning from failure.
“We talk about how success comes from failure,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of activities so far this year where I’m like, okay, gang, we’re probably going to fail today and then we’re going to succeed because we’re going to talk about it and then we’re going to find some strategies to make a change or make an adjustment to get better.”
Fuss-Cummings said she never thought about running for public office, but found it to be another calling for her.
“I had just got to that point where I was like I’m going to do this,” she said. “If I win, that’s your (God’s) blessing. If I lose, then that is You telling me this is not my job right now. This is not for me, and you have something else planned for me.”
Fuss-Cummings is about half-way through her first term as mayor.
“It’s been pretty positive,” she said. “I do my best to protect city staff. Our city staff works very, very hard and they don’t get much credit. I’ve had to be out in public than what maybe I would’ve wanted or thought I would have been. I’ve had to step outside of my box a little bit and make myself more available and I’m ok with that now.”
Fuss-Cummings said she likes to do her homework before every city commission meeting.
“I’ll take my city commission packet and I’ll take it to the gym and I’ll get on a treadmill and I’ll read over it, highlight and ask questions,” she said. “We have a good team. We have some Commissioners that truly, really care. I do my best in a meeting to never make a motion or anything before any and all Commissioners have had an opportunity to ask a question or make a statement. We make sure that we are transparent in any way possible.”
Fuss-Cummings was simply known as Coach Fuss for many in Perkins. She became Fuss-Cummings after marrying her husband, Dennis Cummings.
“We have a lot of fun and we joke around about my last name changes, we’ve been married about three and a half years,” she said. “Some people won’t know me unless you have that Fuss in there, whereas in the Commission room. It just says, Carla Cummings. My husband is so comfortable, he doesn’t get upset when somebody calls me Coach Fuss because that dates how old they are.”
Fuss-Cummings has two sons, Jacob and Caleb Hart, daughter-in-law Hannah Hart, four grandchildren, three adult step-children and three bonus grandchildren.
Faith plays a major part in who Fuss-Cummings is.
“I had a stepmom that drove me to church, my dad and stepmom saved my sister and I from a life that could have been a lot different,” she said. “My husband and I go to worship (at First Baptist Church in Perkins) the Lord on Sundays together, it’s just the best date ever.”