World Traveler Comes Home to Florida to Make a Difference

PUNTA GORDA, Fla.—Jaha Cummings traveled and lived around the world, but he came home to his roots to make a difference in a community that served him well growing up.

“Jaha means Glory of God in Swahili,” Cummings explained when asked during an interview with The Epoch Times about the origins of his name.

Cummings’ roots are well-grounded in the history of the small southwest Florida city that seems to grow exponentially year after year as more and more people are attracted to the state and decide to call it home.

“One of my ancestors was one of the first people to come to this area in 1885 and was one of 15 surveyors responsible for bringing the railroad to the area, which completely changed the look and history of what would become Punta Gorda,” he explained.

Epoch Times Photo
Tom Satchel a member of the Harbor Sunset Rotary Club in Punta Gorda, Fla., speaks with county commission hopeful Jaha Cummings during an Aug. 2 Rotary Club meeting in 2022.  (Jann Falkenstern/The Epoch Times)

“My great-grandmother was here at a time when you had to take a boat from Punta Gorda to Gasparilla Island because there was no other way to get there.”

However, Cummings had dreams of traveling and seeing the world. After graduating high school he found himself immersed in Asian studies at Dartmouth University and after graduating college, he would go on to live in different parts of Asia where he opened markets for American companies and stayed for 20 years until he “came home on vacation.”

“I came back to visit my family and, well, when you grow up here you like it of course,” Cummings laughed as he recalled the day he decided to give up his Asian way of living and come home.

“But being back, being on the water, seeing all the beautiful plant life—it’s such a vibrant, natural, tranquil environment. It’s idyllic.”

It would not be long before Cummings wanted to do more with his time and help transform a community that he loved.

He ran for a seat on the Punta Gorda City Council and won—now, after six years of serving on the city council, he realizes that he can be more service to his constituents on a broader level, which led him to run as a Republican for a Charlotte County commissioner seat.

“What I found was that many of the solutions to constituents’ problems were actually under the purview of the county,” he said. “I just came to feel that in order to advocate for residents better, this was a better ability to do that.”

While in Japan, Cummings served as an adviser for a senator and was involved in a legislative council for tourism between Japan and other Asian countries that prepared him for a career in government.

“So, I knew about working in government and the importance of tourism; especially its economic impact on an area,” he said.

“I really see my role in the Punta Gorda City Council as an opportunity to do what’s best for the entire county. Charlotte County is unique in that Punta Gorda is our only city, and therefore this is the only city council in the county.

“But I want to eliminate the dichotomy between city and county and bring everyone together for the best interests of the area as a whole.”

However, Cummings has a philosophical approach to politics, especially local elections and said people should “pay more attention to them” and tune out “national noise” that detracts from what is going on locally.

“What I found in life is that a good 90 percent of our life comes from decisions of local government,” he said.

Cummings went on to say that he feels that “people get distracted” by national issues and apply those issues to themselves without realizing that “within the mechanisms of local government, we have solutions to everything.”

Although Cummings is focused on winning the upcoming county commission election—whatever the outcome, he said he has a plan for his life and the community he loves.

“In the event that I do not win the commission seat, I will continue in many of my current county, regional, and state roles, because they are not contingent upon me being an elected official,” he said.

“My plans are to continue serving the people.”

Even though he has a desire to serve locally, where he feels he can “do the most good,” he has future aspirations.

“Though I desire to serve at the local level now because this is where I feel I can be of most use to our citizens,” he said. “I do have plans to run for a state role in the future.”

Whether he is called Councilman Cummings, Commissioner Cummings, or even one day, perhaps Governor Cummings, he sees life as a progression of steps to get to a higher goal in life. He compared life to the “ripple effect” when throwing a stone into a pond.

“First you have your circles, they take care of you and your family, then if you wish to become a greater man, you expand it.

“But in order to serve—it’s all local—all politics is local, and I totally believe that.”

Jannis Falkenstern

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Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.

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