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Sue Carlton, Times Columnist

Sue Carlton

Sue Carlton is a native Floridian from a longtime Southern family that her father always said consisted of thieves and cattle rustlers run out of Georgia. She grew up in Miami and joined the Tampa Bay Times in 1988. Over the years she has covered community news, politics, cops, government, and her all-time favorite, criminal courts. For nearly nine years she wrote about the kind of strange cases that only seem to happen here, about intriguing legal issues and courthouse politics. On that beat, she authored a lengthy narrative series on a trooper who killed his wife and co-authored a series on a suburban mother murdered by her teenage daughter and her friends. Sue was the deputy editor of the features section and was the Tampa city editor before she became a columnist in 2005. Three times a week, she writes about politics, outrages, observations, court cases of the day and whatever else comes up. She lives in Tampa with her husband and their very good dog.

Phone: (813) 226-3376 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 3376


  1. Carlton: Downtown's new 'Water Street' district? As Tampa as devil crab

    Economic Development

    Tampa, a place busy reinventing itself, is not exactly known for its streets. At least not in a good way.

    The road called Dale Mabry has long been multiple lanes of traffic hell stretching city to suburb. There's Horrible Hillsborough Avenue, the used car lots of Florida Avenue, the persistent prostitutes of Nebraska Avenue. Our streets are perpetually under construction, excuse me, "improvement." In short, except maybe beautiful Bayshore Boulevard curving along the water and old brick streets that have somehow survived "progress," pretty much no one thinks of Tampa and says: Great streets!...

    Strategic Property Partners announced the name of its new development: Water Street Tampa. This rendering shows the Tampa skyline with SPP's future buildings in place. [Photos courtesy of SPP]
  2. Carlton: Don't let Tampa's success ruin the show at the Straz


    When you're talking about Tampa's downtown, growth is good. Cranes bobbing, parks reborn, streets bustling, buildings rising, all good. Growth is great!

    But a side effect of growth that threatens to mess with one of the city's best assets? Not good.

    The problem is parking, or the lack thereof. City officials will tell you there are plenty of spaces — just not, you know, close to where you want to go....

    David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. (Times archives)
  3. Carlton: Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee says retirement spurred by "a little bit of everything.''

    Public Safety

    Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee sits across the table at La Tropicana, a coffee-and-Cuban toast spot in Ybor City favored by politicians and police. He's in crisp dress uniform, chest and arms covered with impressive stars and badges for a speech he will give later at MacDill Air Force Base. It will be one of his last as sheriff.

    The waitress moves in, balancing steaming cafe con leche on a tray, stops, gives him the once-over. "You're even better looking in person," she says. And it is interesting to see a man who has run law enforcement in the county for the past 13 years — with a $405 million budget and more than 4,000 employees — blush....

    After 13 years as Hillsborough County sheriff, David Gee will retire on Sept. 30. The reason behind his decision is “a little bit of everything,” Gee said.
  4. After politicians fight for him, Mr. Al's back at Tampa City Hall

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — It took heated discussions at two City Council meetings and the threat of losing contracts worth millions, but Monday morning, Mr. Al returned to his post at Old City Hall.

    "I'm glad to be back," said Al-Hassan Mans-Kamara from behind the security desk between the elevators, where he has watched over the building for the last six years. "They're nice people, very nice people."...

    Yvonne Yolie Capin was unhappy about the loss of “Mr. Al.”
  5. Sue Carlton: Mr. Al, Tampa City Council has your back

    Human Interest

    If you work in an office, maybe you know someone like Mr. Al.

    He's there when you come in, at a desk in the lobby, keeping a log, saying hello, remembering your name. And he's there when you're done for the day, telling you to have a nice evening.

    For years at Tampa's historic Old City Hall — the quaint, Disneyish building where the City Council meets — that was Al-Hassan Mans-Kamara, Mr. Al or just Al, at his post in the lobby by the elevator. He gave directions and knew faces. He read agendas before meetings for potential crowds and controversy. He looked out for council members. And they knew he had their back....

    The former Tampa City Hall is seen in 2015. Times 2015
  6. Carlton: A little less swagger, Mr. Mayor?


    In the dispute-gone-national over a bad joke uttered by Tampa's mayor, it is instructive to recall the nickname bestowed upon him by the local military.

    "Swagger" was the fighter pilot call sign given Bob Buckhorn by folks at MacDill Air Force Base, on a patch for his flight suit, even — and yes, he had a flight suit. Clearly, it is a name he enjoys.

    In fact, swagger has been front and center in his years as mayor. "Tampa's got its swagger back," Buckhorn declared early on, and swagger remains evident as he pushes his city forward in the final years of his second term....

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn fires a .50 caliber machine gun from a rigid hull inflatable boat during the International Special Operations Capabilities Demonstration at the Tampa Convention Center Wednesday, June 25, 2016. JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

  7. Carlton: Guess what happened to the guy who tried to walk instead of drive around here?


    Six months ago, Kyle Simon ditched his car and pretty much walked where he needed to go. And he did this here, in one of the most dangerous places in America to be a pedestrian.

    Can you see where this story is going?

    First, some background. Simon, 33, has lived in cities where you can get along fine without wheels, places with better public transportation and bike-friendly streets. But when he resettled in his native Tampa, he figured he'd need a vehicle....

  8. Carlton: Tallahassee bullies gave USF a big wedgie


    We have an expression in the South to describe someone who can never quite pass muster with the powerful: It's like being the red-headed stepchild at the family reunion, elbowed from the table for having the impertinence to even try.

    At the moment, in the legislative scheme of things, that would pretty much fit the University of South Florida.

    USF — in the interest of full disclosure, my alma mater — just got the Tallahassee Treatment akin to a couple of rich-kid bullies administering a particularly humiliating wedgie. And the swift and sure arrogance with which this was executed was nothing short of breathtaking, even for that bunch up in Tallahassee....

  9. Carlton: Never too late to make it right with USF coach, judge


    It's an old saw but a true one: Sometimes it's not what you do — it's what you do after.

    Okay, so when a person has shown some seriously bad judgment, sometime's it is what you did. What Hillsborough Judge Margaret Taylor did last week was publicly lambaste a University of South Florida football player charged with sexual battery and then turn on his coach for further hauling over the coals....

    Judge Margaret Taylor is off Jackson’s case.
  10. Judge and USF football coach she chastised have 'positive' meeting at Tampa courthouse

    Local Government

    TAMPA — A Hillsborough judge made news last week when she publicly blasted University of South Florida football coach Charlie Strong after one of his players was charged with sexual battery.

    But this week, relations were decidedly better between Judge Margaret Taylor and Coach Strong when the two had a cordial meeting at the courthouse Tuesday.

    "It was a very positive conversation," reported Chief Judge Ron Ficarrotta, who met Strong for coffee and asked if he would be willing to meet with the judge who gave him the dressing-down. Strong agreed, and the two spoke for about ten minutes in the chief judge's chambers....

    Hillsborough County Judge Margaret R. Taylor lambasted USF head football coach Charlie Strong and his player, LaDarrius Jackson, when Jackson was before her on charges of sexual battery and false imprisonment. [13th Judicial Circuit photo]
  11. Carlton: USF football and the judge who judged (w/video)


    Hillsborough County Judge Margaret Taylor, I feel your pain. I do.

    Like you, I am a proud alum of the University of South Florida (Go Bulls!) Like you, I graduated pre-football. I spent years trudging to friends' games in Tallahassee, Gainesville and Miami, jealous of their traditions and their fun. (Though I never did get that whole painting one's face orange and blue thing.)

    Maybe like me, judge, you were happy when we finally got a football team of our own. And all that comes with it, as it turns out....

    Hillsborough County Judge Margaret R. Taylor lambasted USF head football coach Charlie Strong and his player, LaDarrius Jackson. Jackson was before her on charges of sexual battery and false imprisonment. [13th Judicial Circuit photo]
  12. After scolding goes viral, Hillsborough judge removes herself from case involving USF Bulls player


    TAMPA — The judge who ripped into a University of South Florida Bulls football player and then his coach in court this week has voluntarily taken herself off the case after video of the dressing-down went viral.

    Hillsborough County Judge Margaret Taylor, who hears first appearance cases, told USF defensive end LaDarrius Jackson that if the allegations of sexual battery and false imprisonment against a fellow student are true, Jackson's behavior was "nothing short of outrageous." ...

    Hillsborough County Judge Margaret R. Taylor lambasted USF head football coach Charlie Strong and his player, LaDarrius Jackson. Jackson was before her on charges of sexual battery and false imprisonment. [13th Judicial Circuit photo]
  13. Carlton: Is Hillsborough's new top prosecutor anti-death penalty? The answer might surprise you


    The death penalty, and how we use it, is changing. Hey, it can happen, even in Florida.

    Until recently, it was perfectly okay if only most people on a jury agreed that a killer should die. We have since come around to the idea that well, yes, perhaps unanimous is wiser given we're talking about taking a human life.

    Meanwhile, a dramatic legal face-off is playing out between new Orlando-area state attorney Aramis Ayala — who refused to seek death for an accused cop killer, or anyone else for that matter — and Gov. Rick Scott, who promptly grabbed 23 death penalty cases away from her....

  14. Carlton: A ferry between our cities? Making a small option into something bigger


    The Tampa Bay area's biggest failure of the moment has to be our utter inability to get traction for a meaningful and necessary transportation plan to take us into the future.

    Reasonable referendums to pay for roads and transit fail, and fail again. Elected officials fear political kneecapping if they dare even speak the word "rail" — heck, even if they talk up "transportation improvements" beyond patching the latest pothole....

    Passengers board the Cross-Bay Ferry near the Tampa Convention Center.  JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times
  15. Carlton: While Tampa parties where it's hot, city must hold the line

    Human Interest

    Tampa's bar and restaurant mecca along South Howard Avenue — SoHo if you're in the know — is something of a paradox.

    And maybe at a crossroads, too.

    South Howard stretches from the waterfront high-rises and mansions of Bayshore Boulevard to busy Kennedy Boulevard — Kennedy being the street certain genteel citizens still say there is little reason to cross for whatever lies north, the theory being that monied South Tampa holds all one could want....

    Patrons walk the streets and travel among the bars and restaurants on a late weekend night along Howard Avenue in the SoHo area of Tampa.