By Hal Boedeker
Orlando Signature Magazine
Orlando television anchor Martha Sugalski has been savoring an unusual gift the last year, even as she counts down the days to when that present ends.
“I’ve had this gift of being able to solely focus on my family. Those gifts don’t come around every day,” said Sugalski, who worked at WESH-Channel 2 for eight years before leaving the local NBC affiliate in July last year. She was at South Florida’s WTVJ-Ch. 6 before leaving for Orlando in 2006
“I’ve been a working mom for 20-something years,” she said. “Someone can tell you, ‘Hey, you get to have a year off with your children and, hey, come back, we want you on the anchor desk.’ It’s a gift to be able to sit at home with your babies.”
That someone is most likely ABC affiliate WFTV-Channel 9, although Sugalski isn’t commenting beyond saying she looks forward to Aug. 6, when her future will be revealed. A noncompete clause has kept her off the air for a year, and she has made the most of that time.
She has luxuriated in the days with her husband, businessman Robert Reich, and their triplets, who recently turned 2. Sugalski could spend more time with her three older children — Chase, 21; Maxwell, 17; and Spencer, 14 — from an earlier marriage. The family’s home in Longwood is a bustling place that will wear out visitors.
Yet Sugalski, 45, describes herself as in the best shape of her life. She always has made exercise a priority, loves CrossFit and credits working out five days a week and eating right.
Sugalski cited only one negative to her routine: her cooking. After two months of her slow-cooker recipes, Reich announced he was taking over.
“He’s fabulous,” she said. Why is she such a bad cook? “I just don’t get it.”
Reich enjoyed the past year as well.
“It has been unusual in that Martha is such a career-oriented person, to see her downshift to a total mom role,” he said. “At the same time, it’s been great.”
She described her approach to the triplets — sons Heaton and Wilder and daughter Holden — as working to stay ahead of them. “You have to keep them busy,” she said. “We go to gym classes. I’ve taken them to the zoo.”
All the triplets are thriving. Holden weighed less than 3 pounds at birth and spent almost six weeks in neonatal intensive care. But now she keeps pace with her brothers.
“She did physical therapy twice a week … to help her walking and balancing,” Sugalski said. “They moved her to once a week, and she’s about to graduate. She’s doing so well.”
Sugalski and Reich, who met on a blind date in 2007 and married in 2009, have been frank about their struggles to have children. She took fertility drugs and suffered a miscarriage in 2011. They were overjoyed by the triplets’ arrival in 2013 and filled with gratitude that the babies escaped injury before Christmas last year when a gas-leak explosion devastated the nursery.
“We could have lost them,” Sugalski said. “They would have been napping in their crib. For some reason, I bathed them early. I had them upstairs playing in the playroom.”
They were far from the nursery, where the explosion embedded hunks of drywall in their cribs. The explosion puts everything in perspective, she said.
Since being off the air, Sugalski has kept a high profile on social media, talking about her family and the news. (She has more than 19,000 followers on Twitter and nearly 55,000 on Facebook.)
“I’m still an anchor. It’s in my blood,” she said. “I’m still engaged in what’s happening in our community.”
She won her first Emmy in December for WESH’s breaking-news coverage of a day-care crash in Winter Park. Although she will happily pose with the statuette, she says she knows she didn’t do it alone and that being a mom helped her on the story.
“You’re only as solid as your news team,” she said. “Everyone was on their game that day.”
Stepping away from the anchor desk was difficult. “I couldn’t watch TV for a little bit,” she said, adding that she has no regrets about being away because of her time with the triplets.
“I know that’s coming to an end,” she said, citing the number of Thursdays until the August announcement about her new employer.
She may switch stations, but she won’t change her look.
“I’m happy with how I look now. I don’t think I’m going to change it. I’m not cutting all my hair off,” she said. “I am who I am.”
PHOTO Martha Sugalski has luxuriated in the days with her husband, businessman Robert Reich, and their triplets, who recently turned 2. (Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel)