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: Public art seeks a place in the heart of Tampa


    Tampa has its interesting public art, from metal horses on Bayshore Boulevard to theatrically lighted downtown bridges to all the sculpture, statuary and such in between.

    But sometimes we struggle, artwise. A massive metal sculpture nicknamed the Exploding Chicken once graced (or marred, depending on your perspective) a respectable corner outside a tall downtown office building. A bona fide Sugarman piece, it was nonetheless shunned and exiled until it was recently reborn at a kitschier spot in a traffic roundabout near the Channelside entertainment complex. It seems much happier there....

  2. Carlton: Pedestrian death rate does not surprise Tampa crusader


    The news, if you are Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick, is not news. Daily reality, and part of the job of representing the city's poorer neighborhoods, yes. But not news.

    Already we knew about the Tampa Bay area's grim distinction as one of the deadliest places in America to try to cross the street. But the latest headline put some eyebrow-raising numbers to it: Pedestrian deaths are nearly three times as likely to happen in Hillsborough County's most impoverished communities (and nearly twice as likely in Pinellas), according to a study by Governing magazine....

    Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick is “a strong advocate for his district,” the mayor says.
  3. Carlton: Lessons from a Hillsborough School Board rock star


    If, within the stodgy confines of a school board it is possible to be a rock star, for a minute there it was April Griffin.

    Or if not a rock star, at least what looked like a hit-the-ground reformer.

    She showed up plain-talking about practical career and technical education as viable options for students. She pushed for transparency in a sometimes opaque Hillsborough County school system, bucked the administration and championed special needs. She wanted answers....

    April Griffin
  4. Carlton: Last ride at the Bro Bowl

    Human Interest

    This week, the Tampa City Council earnestly discussed the fate of graffiti.

    (No, not the spray-painted tagging of old buildings, but graffiti that are local tradition: College rowing teams visiting from far and wide have long painted their school colors as calling cards along the Hillsborough River sea walls. Urban mosaic, you could call it.)

    But as the politicians sat in their air-conditioned chambers discussing whether a chunk of this should be erased in the name of prettying up the new Riverwalk, just across downtown some sweaty kids skated across a different graffiti tradition, one that's also about to disappear....

    (06/21/2013 Tampa) Graffiti urging the preservation of the Bro Bowl in Perry Harvey Sr. Park in Tampa on June 21, 2013. The park is up for consideration to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, which would prevent its demolition to make way for a more modern, lit facility. Organizers of the effort to save it say that it is one of the last surviving concrete bowl skate parks from the 1970's.
  5. Carlton: E.J. Salcines' story of politics and redemption


    The storied story of E.J. Salcines — the courthouse success, the crushing defeat, the resurrection so complete you could even call it redemption — is one for the book on Tampa politics.

    He has been a powerful Latin statesman in this town, a son of West Tampa who never met a stranger and who, for 16 years, was Hillsborough County's top prosecutor. But in the 1980s, he faced a federal investigation by then-U.S. Attorney Bob Merkle on allegations of bribe taking and case fixing. It was a moment for Tampa, old guard and new....

  6. Carlton: Keep Tampa, if not weird, at least Tampa

    Human Interest

    The trick to being a City On The Move — by now, practically downtown Tampa's official slogan — is balancing the best of the old with all of the shiny new.

    A historic courthouse remade into a fancy hotel, a seedy hotel restored to its former chandeliered glory, graceful old bridges lighted up in arty colors at night — we can do that.

    So here is where I get whimsical about graffiti....

    Graffiti on the sea wall near Kiley Gardens, photographed from the University of Tampa campus on Monday, is set to be removed later this month to make way for a permanent art installation along the Kennedy underpass segment of the Tampa Riverwalk as part of Lights on Tampa 2015.
  7. Why kick a Florida manatee when it's down?


    Not as pretty as they are depicted.

    — Christopher Columbus, on coming upon what he thought were mermaids but turned out to be manatees.

    I beg to differ.

    Of all the strange and interesting things that make up Florida, naturewise — and they are legion, from ingeniously constructed bugs to a seemingly infinite variety of shorebirds, lizards and snakes — one of the best has to be the manatee....

  8. The notable name game, and other political tales


    With the primary elections mere weeks away, mailboxes are filling with interesting missives.

    Among the usual campaign pieces with The Other Guy In The Race photographed looking either sinister or stupid, one notable local ad features a noble-looking fighter pilot standing next to an impressive-looking jet.

    Vote Absentee for Norman Cannella for Judge, it says. DISCIPLINE HONOR RESPECT....

  9. Carlton: Has the world moved beyond intolerance?


    Once upon a time, an antigay, anti-Muslim, "pro-Christian" platform could do wonders for getting you elected in the conservative corners of Hillsborough County.

    But the world keeps turning.

    Slowly, state by state, people are being allowed to marry whom they want. Even here, miracle of miracles, county commissioners are warming to the idea that gay and transgender citizens deserve the same basic protections as everyone else....

  10. A dubious judicial legacy, and other Tampa tales

    Human Interest

    Tampa lawyer Laura Ward wants to be a judge. And campaigning with her in her race against former chief prosecutor Karen Stanley is her father, former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ed Ward.

    Those on the campaign trail say he is everywhere. He has sent letters to legal notables, working connections. He's on her website and in her speeches. A pamphlet she leaves at voters' doors shows him smiling in what appear to be judicial robes, holding his daughter when she was little....

  11. Carlton: Tampa council member barhops for a better city


    So a Tampa City Council member walks into a bar. And another bar. And another bar.

    No, it's not the stress of this city — the busy, beery part of his South Tampa district in particular — that has council member Harry Cohen haunting Irish pubs and cocktail lounges along teeming South Howard Avenue. (SoHo, to those in the know.)

    For weeks he has been sipping a ginger ale here, a seltzer there, on a fact-finding mission along the SoHo entertainment district through trendy Hyde Park. The goal: some kind of rapprochement between residents and bars and restaurants that range from Bern's steak house and the chi-chi new Epicurean Hotel to World of Beer. Not to be confused with nearby Yard of Ale....

  12. Carlton: A real neighborhood takes it to the streets (okay, curbs)

    Human Interest

    The signs, a bright, guilt-inducing red, sprouted overnight like mushrooms along the grassy curbs of my regular shortcut through an old Tampa neighborhood.

    Please, they implore me and the other cut-through drivers behind me: DRIVE LIKE YOUR KIDS LIVE HERE.


    City streets, even very residential ones like Ridgewood Avenue where kids play, dogs get walked and neighbors are out being neighborly, are open for all of us to drive. Of course. This town's prettiest street in fancier South Tampa, the winding waterfront Bayshore Boulevard, belongs no more to the residents of the mansions along it than to the barefoot guy sitting on the seawall watching the boats go by....

  13. Carlton: Younger Redner fast becoming one of Tampa's favorite sons

    Human Interest

    Imagine you are a boy growing up in Tampa, Florida, USA.

    Now, imagine that pretty much everywhere in your town, your name — the one teachers say at roll call, the one by which you introduce yourself to strangers — immediately evokes images of naked women wrapped around stripper poles.

    Now 41, Joey Redner is very familiar with the question: What was it like growing up as the son and namesake of Tampa's undisputed strip club king Joe Redner? He has a hard time answering. People made assumptions; boys were impressed. Maybe it's like growing up with red hair, the kind everyone seems to need to comment on. It just was....

    What was it like growing up the son and namesake of Tampa’s undisputed strip club king? Joey Redner, now 41, has a hard time answering. But he has found his own success, as creator of Cigar City Brewing, which recently reached a deal to make the company’s brews available on Carnival Cruise ships.
  14. Carlton: Signs of progress for police, bay area


    I can't decide if this makes us a big cosmopolitan region or a small town where pretty much everyone is related to everyone else. Or both.

    Among the finalists for the St. Petersburg police chief job is current assistant chief Melanie Bevan. Should she end up as Mayor Rick Kriseman's pick in this very big decision for his city, it would make for an interesting juxtaposition with the town across the bridge....

  15. Carlton: Hillsborough approaches a new day of rights for everyone


    Once upon a time, a politician named Ronda Storms held sway over the land, or at least Hillsborough County.

    A conservative Christian and a county commissioner, Storms managed to prevent county government from even acknowledging gay pride events. She wasn't alone: the same board had previously repealed an ordinance to protect gays against discrimination.

    But time passes, politicians fade and new ones step up. Sometimes even government progresses....