4Tm pleased that the mayor let us women come in here and do the fob that we can do, and there is no more restriction
put on us than men. There's no difference. We were fust hired to do a fob...He doesn't give us any more orders, and he's not
hovering over us to see if we >e going to goof or not. He just seems to trust us to do the fob we need to do. I can truthfully
say that I have seen nothing in his attitude that makes him feel any differently toward those of us who are women/'
This statement by Fleda Coats, a newly appointed administrative assistant to the Mayor, seems representative of the
attitudes of executive assistants Florence Neumeyer and Marsha Wayne, as well. Neumeyer said she had ''equal pay and equal
treatment." Her salary is $30,000, Coats earns $25,000 and Wayne has agreed to work for $1 a year.*
All three women bring strong business backgrounds to their office-real estate (Neumeyer), construction (Coats) and
corporate management (Wayne). They gave gracious and confident interviews. Yet they were wary of publicity and two of
them voiced anxiety about the tape recorder. "I see tape recorders and I go ape. I see cameras and I go ape. I guess Fm fust
not geared to publicity for some reason or another," Fleda Coats said. These women are not accustomed to being in the
public eye, and they seemed to feel that their positions on various issues-particularly women's issues-were irrelevant to the
performance of their jobs. They seemed reluctant to express opinions or take stands.
Two of them have been active in conservative political campaigns, and the third (Wayne) describes herself as
"apolitical/* Only one (Neumeyer) has had any contact with womens organizations through her work with the Republican
What power they do have is access to information and access to the mayor. McConn says his doors will be open. If
specific programs are presented to his assistants, they will be obliged to evaluate and present them to him. Now that the
womens advocate office is history, Houston women and those employed by the city should contact Marsha Wayne, as one
of her duties will be acting liaison with women and women s groups.
In fairness to these three women, it should be noted that each has been in her position for only a-few weeks, and they
all said they were still trying to find out all the things they didn't know-departments, personnel, board members, and the
myriad interconnections. "Now, if you come back in three months or six months, I may be screaming my head off, but I can
tell you more/* said Coats - Diana Potts
three women in the mayor's office
Whothey are-how they seetheir role.
Interviews by Diana Potts
Whenever a disgruntled citizen calls
the mayor's office to file a complaint, the
person she is most likely to talk to is
Fleda Coats, administrative assistant to
Mayor McConn. "You'd be surprised,"
explained Coats, "at the number of people who, instead of going through the various departments, would rather call the
mayor. When they do, it's my job to try
to get back to these people, let them
know that we're trying to help them, and
then go to the proper departments, tell
them these people need help, and then
see that it gets done. And, of course, in a
lot of instances it gets done very slowly.
But we try."
Coats seems like a person to whom
diplomacy comes naturally. She has a
casual, unaffected conversational style,
and it is easy to imagine her calming irate
citizens and convincing them that she is
on their side and doing everything she can
to help. It's the good old girl school of
politics, and she's very skillful and direct.
"The reason I wanted to start out
helping is because I know so many people
in Houston, and they're good people, and
it's sort of a pleasure to be able to help
them out. Just yesterday a lady called,
and she had had sewage in her house for
five days. You know, when it rains and
everything just starts...Well, that woman
was just nearly crazy. Now bear in mind,
this might get old to me. I've only been
here for a month. But it sure does give
you a good pleasure, when you know
some poor soul who's been mopping for
five days, and you can keep on and try to
get her some help^J like my job."
Coats was born in Arkansas and
has lived in Houston for 25 years. She
spent the WWII years in Oklahoma City,
but from the way she talks about Houston, you would think she had been here
all her life. Much of her business background is in construction, her husband's
business interest. She was the office
manager of an architectural firm for a
Florence Neumeyer is an executive
assistant to the mayor, and her biggest
job during the next two years will be serving as liaison with the Houston Independent School District. She will also be the
liaison with other school districts and
with intergovernmental bodies, which
means she will be helping to coordinate
and research any city project involving
county, state, or federal collaboration.
She will also be working closely with the
Houston-Galveston Area Council, an organization of about 13 surrounding counties. Any one of these duties will require a tremendous amount of work, and
taken together the responsibility seems
Before coming to the mayor's office, Neumeyer's professional background
was in real estate. She is a native Hou-
stonian and a licensed realtor. Aside from
her business interests, she has devoted
time to church, school and political activities. "I have worked for Congressman
Archer. I have worked for Senator John
Tower. I have worked for the school
board elections. I could just go on and
on, but those would be the ones that are
well-known." When asked if her real estate background would have any practical
value in her present position or a direct
effect on her job, she replied, "I don't
think it will have any direct effect, except
that I am used to dealing with contracts
The first major HISD project that
Neumeyer will be working on is the proposed criminal justice/police science
magnet school. Although during his campaign McConn described the school as a
"pre-academy" for the Houston Police
Academy, Neumeyer visualizes the school
*Mayor McConn told Breakthrough (see page 1) that he was not interested in a "dollar
a year" volunteer to fill a position similar to that held by Dr. Nikki Van Hightower.
Wayne will act as a liaison with women and women s groups.
Page 4 February 1978 HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH
as "a good training ground for those who
wish to go into criminology in any phase.
It could lead into a number of careers,
whether it's being a police officer, to going into law, to working perhaps in the
business or administrative end of it."
Neumeyer expects the magnet
school tproject to be non-controversial.
"This looks like a project that will come
about, and it seems to be very well accepted by the community. That's one
that we have great hopes for." However,
since McConn has spoken of the school as
a possible solution to the problem of
minority recruitment on the Houston police force, there are a few questions that
come to mind.
Q: Don't you think that 14 or 15
is sort of an early age to be deciding to
turn towards police work? Don't you
think that's a decision that requires a
A: I can put the question back to
you again. Do you think that's too young
for a person to decide that they want to
do something in the medical field or the
performing and visual arts or engineering?
Continued on page 19
number of years and she has also been active in several political campaigns.
"I worked for Mayor Welch all of
the years that he ran, and I worked in Mr.
< McConn's council race, some Congressional races, the Lt. Governor's race back
when Wayne Connelly was running, and
for some legislators. I've watched through
the years what good people in office do
for a city. Witness, we've got Houston,
because we've got some real good, qualified people in that office. You can take
cities that start out like Houston, and
they're for all practical purposes bankrupt, and they have very high unemployment, whereas Houston was handled by
competent men and this is what has resulted. It's a good city. It's made my living for all of these years and I'm real
proud of it and I'll tell you I am."
Given the right race, Fleda Coats
could probably win some votes herself,
Continued on page 19