DALLAS — A year after establishing a major base in Texas, the employee-owned public finance firm Baird is expanding in the state with a new Houston office headed by former Raymond James director Carmen Best.

Best, who has 20 years of experience in municipal finance, also opened Raymond James' Houston office in 2010.

"Her deep relationships with clients in the greater Houston area will complement Baird's existing Texas public finance business," said Ajay Thomas, managing director and manager of Baird's Texas public finance operations.

"Carmen will be a valuable asset to our team as our firm continues to grow in the Texas market."

Baird made a major foray into Texas in June 2012 with the addition of five bankers in three new offices in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.  The Houston expansion, announced Monday, includes associates from the firm's wealth management and fixed income sales and trading businesses.

Since then, Baird has risen to top tier status in underwriting — particularly in competitive deals — and expects to rank first in K-12 Texas public school issues, Thomas said.

"We have really hit the ground running," Thomas told The Bond Buyer. "We had a lot of success at the end of 2012, but we were really focused on 2013."

Over the past year, some of Baird's most significant deals include a $226.3 million deal for the Pasadena, Texas, Independent School District, a $66 million taxable refunding for the Irving ISD, a soft put issue for Lone Star College and an $82 million for the Northside ISD in San Antonio, Thomas said.

According to Ipreo, in the first quarter of 2013, Baird ranked second in the state for municipal transactions by par amount and ranked first for K-12 public education transactions in Texas.

In 2012, Baird Public Finance maintained its top national ranking for transactions executed in the municipal market, a position the firm has held since 2009.

Baird's other businesses are expanding in Texas, as well. Last week, the firm announced that it had added seven financial advisors and opened a wealth management office in Houston.

The firm now employs nearly 70 associates throughout the state.

Before joining Raymond James, Best was senior vice president and the lead Houston-based public finance banker at Siebert Brandford Shank & Co. from 2004 to 2010. She began her career in public finance in 1992 with the City of Houston where, as debt manager, she oversaw the issuance of more than $10 billion in financings for major capital improvement programs. Best has a MBA with a concentration in finance from The University of St. Thomas and a bachelor's degree in accounting from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Thomas, who was managing director at Raymond James before joining Baird for the Texas expansion, said he made the move because of growing opportunity in the state.

"Baird was a firm that I took a very serious look at because of its culture," Thomas said. "It seemed more regional in focus, with team-oriented collaboration."

Thomas, who works out of Baird's Dallas office, worked in various capacities at Morgan Stanley & Co. for eight years before moving to Raymond James. He holds a law degree from the University of Texas, a master of public policy degree from Harvard and a BA degree in economics from Southwestern University.

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