Susan Taylor Martin, Times Staff Writer

Susan Taylor Martin

For someone who doesn't particularly care to fly, Tampa Bay Times senior correspondent Susan Taylor Martin has logged a lot of hours in the air — in the past decade she has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and China. She covered the invasion of Iraq, the war in Kosovo and the war against terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan. On 9/11, she and two other Times staffers got in Martin's aging car and drove 24 hours nonstop from Tampa Bay to New York City, her hometown. Among the other breaking stories Susan has covered were the death and funeral of Princess Diana, the funeral of Jordan's King Hussein and the handover of Hong Kong to China. There have been lighter moments, too. Martin has written about a restaurant in Jerusalem dedicated to Elvis Presley's memory; a Scottish hamlet that finally got TV and hated it; and the gay and transvestite scene in Turkey, a conservative Muslim country. Her hobbies include figure skating, antiquing, flea-marketing, and rooting for the Blue Devils basketball team of Duke University (her alma mater).

Martin has won numerous state and national journalism awards, including the 2007 Paul Hansell Award presented by the Florida Society of News Editors for distinguished writing and reporting.

Phone: (727) 893-8642

Email: susan@tampabay.com

Blog: Hot Spots

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  1. Florida's swollen ranks of lawyers scrap for piece of a shrinking legal pie

    Business

    Ask Jason Fraser how many jobs he applied for after graduating from law school last year and this is what he says:

    "Maybe 10 or 20 when it was someplace I wanted to work. Maybe 50 when I started getting desperate.''

    After searching from Ocala to Miami, Fraser finally landed a public defender's post in Pasco County in June. But his months of job-hunting raises another question, one that nags at many in the legal profession:...

    At Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport less than 6 percent of the 2013 graduates were unemployed.
  2. At elegant Signature Place in St. Pete, nothing classy about Unit 2403

    Crime

    One January evening last year, St. Petersburg police got multiple calls about "yelling and banging'' in an unusual location: a $500,000 condo in the luxury high-rise Signature Place.

    Two officers quickly made their way to Unit 2403, where they found the door kicked in. On the floor inside, they saw broken glass, droplets of blood and several braids yanked from the head of a young woman brawling with two older men. ...

    Since late 2012, many of the police calls have involved Trimetrius Denise Austin.
  3. HomePath offers a road to bargains

    News

    For Michelle Marshall, the road to home ownership turned out to be a path.

    In December, she closed on a Tarpon Springs bungalow she found through the HomePath program of the Federal National Mortgage Association, better known as Fannie Mae. The 1,870-square-foot house lured her with its two fireplaces, a vaulted ceiling and, at $124,000, a price well below the appraised value.

    "It's a really a unique house,'' said Marshall, who shares it with her two teenage children. "I love this house.''...

    Michelle Marshall, 56, of Tarpon Springs holds her dog, Calli, in the front yard of the 1,800-square-foot home she bought through HomePath, a program that offers Fannie Mae-owned properties. She bought the house in December for $124,000, nearly $25,000 below its assessed value.
  4. The Englishwoman who created modern Iraq

    Perspective

    Editor's note: This is an updated version, including new reporting, of a story that ran shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

    One man called her "the most objectionable person I've ever met." Another deemed her "mighty and valiant." But none could deny that in her fur boas and flowered hats, Gertrude Bell cut a unique figure as she roamed the Middle East in the early years of the 20th century. ...

    Volunteers in the newly formed “Peace Brigades” participate in a parade near the Imam Ali shrine in the southern holy Shiite city of Najaf, Iraq, Thursday, June 19, 2014, after called for by the radical Shiite cleric Muqtatda al-Sadr to form brigades to protect Shiite holy shrines against possible attacks by Sunni militants. (AP Photo/Jaber al-Helo) BAG132
  5. Tenants caught in quagmire of homeowners association foreclosures

    Real Estate

    In February, a new company in Tampa called RE-710 got a terrific deal. It paid $5,700 for a five-bedroom home valued at $311,000.

    The same month, RE-710 acquired control of dozens of other houses and condos throughout the Tampa Bay area for just cents on the dollar. Aside from their bargain prices, the properties had something else in common. The buyers were also the sellers: three Tampa men, including convicted fraudster Barry Haught....

    Nicole St. Pearre stands in front of the New Tampa home she rented in January after seeing it posted on Craigslist by Whitburn LLC. Photographed on June 5, she holds the eviction and bankruptcy notices she received the previous day.
  6. Complexities of reverse mortgages snag homeowners

    Real Estate

    Well into their senior years, Kenny and Fran Goodnow were struggling to pay their mortgage in 2007 when a salesman offered what seemed like a wonderful solution.

    A reverse mortgage would tap the equity in their St. Petersburg home to pay off their existing loan and give them extra cash for travel, a new car, a nest egg. Best of all, they could stay in their house.

    The couple only had to take care of the property taxes and insurance, which totalled barely $100 a month back then. ...

  7. More than 4,000 Floridians sign up for Hardest Hit mortgage reduction program

    Real Estate

    Good news for underwater homeowners current on their mortgage payments: There's still time to apply for a program that could cut your unpaid balance by up to $50,000.

    Florida housing officials re-opened a federally funded mortgage relief program last week. As of Thursday, 4,127 homeowners had signed up.

    That's way down from September, when the Hardest Hit Fund Principal Reduction Program hit its cap of 25,000 applicants within a few days. So far, 2,400 of those homeowners have been helped and more than 6,000 have been turned down....

    Tim Gibbons and Jayne Lisbeth bought their Seminole Heights home for $279,000 in 2006. With a congresswoman’s help, they’ve been approved for a principal reduction.
  8. Almighty dollar motivates ministry, former South Pasadena tenants say

    News

    SOUTH PASADENA — Keith Burke thought he had found the perfect home — canal-side, moderately priced, in a quiet neighborhood.

    That is until Pastor Jeffrey Polhill leased the rundown house next door and started renting out rooms for $500 a month.

    In the past year, Burke has helped and consoled many of Polhill's tenants, who have complained to him of rats, roaches, electrical shorts, uncollected garbage and rude treatment by Polhill and his wife, Vonda. Burke has even helped some tenants move out before their leases expired because conditions were so bad....

    Touched by an Angel Ministry rents shared rooms in a small, rundown South Pasadena house for $500 a month per person.
  9. Turmoil roils Gulfcoast Legal Services

    Corporate

    When Gulfcoast Legal Services looked for a new executive director, one candidate had the wow factor — Kathleen Mullin, a seasoned trial lawyer and TV legal analyst.

    "She was very bright, very enthusiastic'' said Ramon Carrion, president of Gulfcoast's board.

    Yet barely a year after hiring Mullin, Carrion joined his colleagues in a resounding vote of "no confidence.'' Mullin left her $115,000 a year job in February, the sounds of Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead playing on one staffer's cellphone....

    Kathleen Mullin left Gulfcoast Legal Services in February.
  10. State reopening Hardest Hit Fund to help underwater homeowners

    Banking

    Are you current on your mortgage payments but owe more than your house is worth?

    At 9 a.m. Thursday, Florida housing officials will reopen a federally funded program that pays down loan balances by up to $50,000.

    To qualify, the home must be a primary residence purchased before January 2010 and have an unpaid first mortgage balance not greater than $350,000. Total household income for a family of four cannot exceed 140 percent of the average median income for an area — $80,360 in Hills­borough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties....

  11. Questions raised about Florida program to help homeowners behind on mortgages

    Real Estate

    Florida housing officials are expanding a program to help homeowners who stopped paying their mortgages and owe more than their homes are worth.

    At the same time, however, more than 6,000 Floridians who are current on their payments have been denied assistance under a separate program that uses the same source of federal money.

    Jack McCabe, a Deerfield Beach real estate consultant,' said "it's dead wrong'' to help delinquent borrowers at the expense of people still paying their mortgages....

    Florida Housing has scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. today to announce “important information’’ about assistance for homeowners who have stayed current on their mortgages.
  12. State Rep. Darryl Rouson sued over traffic crash

    Legislature

    ST. PETERSBURG — State Rep. Darryl Rouson is being sued by a 27-year-old woman who says she suffered "substantial'' injuries in August when Rouson plowed into her car while fiddling with his navigation system.

    The suit, filed last week in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, comes as a Florida news service found that Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, has the worst driving history of any state lawmaker....

  13. Lloyd's of London dramatically lowers its flood insurance rates in Florida

    Banking

    Here's something that might shock many Tampa Bay homeowners:

    Flood insurance rates are falling.

    Lloyd's of London and other private insurers have muscled into the market, picking up customers stunned by rate hikes under the National Flood Insurance Program.

    The decreases can be dramatic:

    • For $146,000 of coverage on a house in St. Petersburg, the federal program quoted a renewal rate of $6,685. The Lloyd's rate: $1,367....

    For $250,000 of coverage, the National Flood Insurance Program from FEMA quoted a rate of $4,846 for this home in the Shores Acres section of St. Petersburg. The Lloyds of London rate for this home was $2,123.
  14. Meet the Palm Harbor man who is 12 years behind on his mortgage payments

    Real Estate

    There are people who are late on their mortgages, and then there's Paul Stenstrom.

    The Palm Harbor man hasn't paid a cent on his home since 2002, back when gas cost $1.61 a gallon, Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq and Kelly Clarkson was the first American Idol. Now, 12 years later, the world has moved on. Stenstrom has not.

    As of this week, he and his family were still in the house even as a bank pressed ahead with efforts to evict them. ...

  15. David Jolly's Pinellas condo is mostly for part-time residents

    Blog

    Republican congressional candidate David Jolly could be excused for not knowing many of the neighbors in his Indian Shores condo complex.

    Jolly is one of just three owners in the 162-unit Barefoot Beach Resort who claim homestead exemptions. All of the others are part-time residents, many of whom lease out their units to vacationers.

    Unlike opponent Alex Sink, who is renting a Feather Sound condo, Jolly cites his 2005 purchase of the 950-square-foot unit as evidence he’s a full-time Pinellas resident. But the rider to a mortgage he and then-wife Carrie took out that year shows that initially at least they were part-timers, too....

    A look at the "second home rider" page from David Jolly's mortgage on his Indian Shores condo.