Robin Sussingham

Reporter/Host

Robin Sussingham is a reporter/producer and host at WUSF Public Broadcasting.  A native of Lakeland, she frequently reports on events and issues in Polk County.

She came to WUSF from public radio stations KUER and KCPW in Utah, has contributed stories to NPR and Marketplace, and has an extensive background in newspapers, magazines and online reporting. 

Robin majored in chemistry at Duke, and went to NYU for a Masters Degree in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting. She's reported on everything from the Olympics to the oil spill, but will jump at a chance to talk about food or books.

Ways to Connect

Florida Polytechnic University

Saturday, Aug. 16, marks the grand opening for Florida's 12th university. Florida Polytechnic University, in Polk County, will offer a tuition-free STEM education to its inaugural class of about 550 students, who start class on Aug. 25.  President Randy Avent  sat down with WUSF's Robin Sussingham to talk about his vision for the university.

FEMA

On Friday, Aug. 13, 2004, while many in the Tampa Bay area braced for what they thought may be a direct hit, the Category 4 Hurricane Charley took a right turn into Charlotte County and Punta Gorda. A decade later, we go back to just hours after that devastating blow, when it was a tense time in that small community of mostly senior citizens nestled between Sarasota and Ft. Myers. We also revisit the quaint DeSoto County town of Arcadia, where sustained winds of a hundred miles an hour ripped down walls and roofs from its historic main street.

Here's an impressive stat: six of the 10 most costly hurricanes in U.S. history hit Florida during 2004 and 2005. Insurance companies took a big hit financially  and, as you'd expect, our property insurance coverage got more expensive. But the state saw its last hurricane nine years ago. So why are we still paying such high rates?

Robin Sussingham

All over Florida, laws are changing to make it easier for suburban homeowners to do a little farming. It's becoming more and more common to have a neighbor who's growing his own organic vegetables, collecting eggs from his own chickens, or even raising bees for their honey.

We will take an in-depth look at the increasing popularity of backyard agriculture this week on Florida Matters on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 19 at 7:30 a.m. on WUSF 89.7 FM.

Robin Sussingham / WUSF News

A comprehensive bill to protect and restore Florida's natural springs has been moving through the state senate with strong bipartisan support. Support for springs in the Florida House, however, is far less certain. Still, it's the biggest burst of momentum and  public attention concerning these natural wonders in recent memory.

IFAS

Giant lizards called Argentine black and white tegus are coming out of hibernation right now -- and they're in the Tampa Bay area. Wildlife officials say the invasive species eat everything -- including the eggs and hatchlings of native animals that conservationists are trying hard to protect.

Robin Sussingham

The United States Department of Agriculture recently announced it was putting $21 million toward saving the citrus industry. They're trying to rescue it from what's widely seen as its biggest threat ever -- a disease called citrus greening.

Today in Lakeland, the USDA official who's coordinating how that money will be spent, Dr. Mary Palm,  spoke to dozens of growers and others that work in citrus. But the growers  stressed that they can't wait for long term solutions, and said that the industry needs immediate help to survive.

The Lakelander

You often hear that print media is out -- or going digital.  So when an upmarket, city magazine  with big  production values suddenly appears in a mid-sized town like Lakeland, can it succeed? Publishers of the new magazine, The Lakelander, are banking on it.

Robin Sussingham

A piece of history from Bartow will be included in the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

The museum recently acquired a foundation stone bearing the initials of builder L.B. Brown, a former slave who built scores of homes during Bartow's early years. Museum officials see Brown as an example of the often overlooked contributions to America's growth by pioneering African Americans.

Polk State College

Polk State College held a ribbon-cutting for its new Advanced Technology Center on Thursday at the Clear Springs development east of  Bartow. Built with a $12 million donation from Clear Springs developer Stan Phelps, the center will train industry workers in high skilled technology jobs. The campus was originally envisioned as a $30 million project, but state funding fell through. Polk State College president Eileen Holden spoke to WUSF's Robin Sussingham about the center's current capabilites and Polk State's hopes for future expansion.

Polk County Sheriff's Office

Two men -- including the grandson of former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden -- died in a car crash early Thursday morning in Winter Haven. A third man was pulled from the car alive, after being trapped for hours in the vehicle, which was partially submerged in a water-filled ditch.

Robin Sussingham / WUSF

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam calls citrus greening "as bad a situation as it could possible be for Florida signature crop." That's why the state's citrus farmers have spent more than $60 million of their own money over the last seven years to save their crops. Lake Alfred, in Polk County, is headquarters for intense research efforts to cure citrus greening.

CF Industries

The Mosaic Co. has announced it's buying the Central Florida operations of CF Industries. The price - $1.2 billion.

Among the CF properties included in the deal is the South Pasture phosphate mine and beneficiation plant in Hardee County, which totals 22,000 acres; a Plant City phosphate mine and beneficiation plant; and facilities at the Port of Tampa, including an ammonia terminal and warehouse facilities.

Phosphate mining was once an economic pillar for Polk County -- but that era is coming to a close. The last active mine in the county is nearly depleted and will close next year .

Mosaic says it will close its Hookers Prairie phosphate mine in Polk  by the fall of next year.

"That will be the last rock we extract from Polk County," says Karen Swager, Vice President of Mining Operations for Mosaic.

Florida Polytechnic University

In-state undergraduate students who enroll at Florida Polytechnic University next year will get free tuition. The school's Board of Trustees approved the scholarships Monday at its meeting at the Orlando International Airport.

Polk County Sheriff's Office

Juveniles incarcerated at a facility in unincorporated Polk County rioted Saturday evening, destroying 18 of the 20 buildings at the Avon Park Youth Academy. The Polk County Sheriff's Office is reporting rampaging youths caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage, and said that seven boys were taken to an area hospital with minor injuries, including a broken leg, lacerations and a concussion. None of the staff or any law enforcement officers were injured.

Sarasota County has a higher percentage of people over 65 than any other large county in the nation. And some business leaders now say that all those seniors - rather than a demographic drawback - could be a valuable asset.

They could actually help diversify the economy - even turn the county into what they're calling a "mecca" for those who want to learn what an aging population looks like.

Scott Wheeler / The Ledger

The Lakeland Police Department is coming under increasing public criticism as reports of a years-long sex scandal and other high-profile incidents continue to mount.

WUSF's Robin Sussingham sat down with investigative reporter Jeremy Maready of The Ledger to get an update on the department.

More reports from Maready and his colleagues are at http://www.theledger.com/

Robin Sussingham / WUSF

Florida Southern College in Lakeland is building a brand new house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright -- even though the architect died in 1959.  And college officials say the new structure is part of their plan to become one of the country's premiere cultural destinations. 

Larrykoestler.com

The Tampa Bay area is the state's epicenter for the craft brew scene -- but neighboring Lakeland is not being left out of the scene.  The city has plans for a new brewery cooperative, which would help local, small brewers reach bigger markets. And there's a lively craft brew scene popping up in Lakeland's restaurants.

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