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December 19, 2013

City staff say ‘bye’ to retiring assistant

NORMAN — A lifetime ago, it seems, Penn Square Bank had failed and Oklahoma’s economy was in a severe downslide. For a single parent and real estate agent like Carol Coles, those were tough times, but Coles is nothing if not resilient.

She took a job in the Norman city clerk’s office, thinking in a year the real estate market would bounce back and she’d be selling homes again in Norman.

Instead, Coles settled in at city hall and returned to college to get her master’s degree in public administration. For nearly 26 years, she has served as an administrative assistant to city leadership.

Now, Coles is retiring. A reception in her honor at city hall from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Friday will allow friends to say “thank you” for her years of service.

Coles was hired by then-city clerk Mary Hatley, then moved into the city manager’s office a few months later when Eugene Miller asked if she’d like to work for him. She has worked for six city managers and six mayors.

“The role definitely changed, and responsibilities were increased,” Coles said. That included staffing four city commissions.”

“The Human Rights Commission was established by a vote of the people, so it has a really unique mission and function,” former chair Lisa Schmidt said. “Carol really helped us understand that role and what had been tried and was successful in the past and what some of the continuing challenges were.”

Coles’ deep understanding of city government aided in the commission’s work.

“I think her biggest contribution was knowing how the city of Norman works and acting as a bridge between the commission and the city,” Schmidt said. “She works with so many people who are only there for a few terms in the commissions.

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