Courtney Shea, Ritta McLaughlin named 2019 Freda Johnson Award winners

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Courtney Shea and Ritta McLaughlin have been chosen as this year’s private and public sector winners of the Freda Johnson Award for Trailblazing Women in Public Finance.

The award is named for Freda Johnson, a founding board member of the organization who was an executive vice president and public finance division head at Moody's Investors Service from 1979 through 1990. Johnson and the Northeast Women in Public Finance will formally present the awards at The Bond Buyer’s Deal of the Year ceremony on Dec. 4 at the Conrad Downtown in New York City.

This year marks the ninth time the group has handed out the award and the fifth year that the organization expanded it to cover two public finance professionals, one each from the public and private sectors.
"I am honored and humbled to receive this award," private sector winner Shea told The Bond Buyer, who added it was especially gratifying that she was chosen by her peers in the industry.

Shea, an owner and managing member of Columbia Capital Management LLC, has over 30 years of private sector experience as a municipal finance professional in municipal advisory and investment banking. She has worked with state and local, non-profits, higher education and cultural organizations by creating short- and long-term financial solutions for capital and fiscal needs. Shea provides oversight for transactions, creates strategic plans, supports clients in assembling cross-functional project teams and ensures transparency for investors.

She has been at Columbia Capital since 2013. Before that, she was a senior vice president at Acacia Financial Group, a managing director at Siebert Brandford Shank, national manager of public finance at ABN AMRO, a director at Salomon Smith Barney and a managing director at Artemis Capital.

Shea has a BA in economics from Notre Dame, a JD in law from Loyola University (and is licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois) and an MBA in business administration from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

She is also very active in donating her time and efforts to several groups. She is a member of the board of directors of the Joffrey Ballet, a board member of the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago's Center for Municipal Finance and is a woman’s board member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

McLaughlin, currently Chief Education Officer at the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, will be leaving her position as of Nov. 1, following eight years with the Board. As chief education officer, McLaughlin was in charge of the education and outreach activities of the MSRB.

During her time at the MSRB, she developed and oversaw the MSRB Education Center, MSRB Podcast and MuniEdPro®, a suite of over 20 interactive online courses about municipal market activities and regulations. In April, the MSRB made MuniEdPro® free for all market participants. Earlier this year, the platform earned a Brandon Hall Group award for excellence in the category for best advance in learning management technology for compliance training.

“So often municipal finance professionals work hard and assign themselves to being of service without acknowledgment or recognition. Throughout my career I have been committed to making a difference when and wherever possible,” McLaughlin told The Bond Buyer. “I am humbled and honored to be selected for this award. Freda Johnson has been an example of what it means to strive for excellence and demonstrate what is possible.”

Prior to working at the MSRB, she had been an associate treasurer for the District of Columbia, executive director at JPMorgan Securities, associate director public finance investment banking at Bear Stearns, vice president public finance investment banking at RBC, associate director at Fitch Ratings. Early in her career she served as a health and social service budget analyst and special assistant to the director at the New York City Independent Budget Office, director of development at LEAP [Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership], and a legislative aide and policy fellow/Center for Women in Government at the New York State Assembly’s committee on Children and Families.

She has a BA in urban studies and secondary education from Vassar College, an MS in urban policy and management from The New School.

Other public sector Trailblazers for 2019 are California State Treasurer Fiona Ma; Piper Montemoyer, public finance manager of treasury operations at the Texas state comptroller’s office; Olga Chernat, executive director of the New York City Municipal Water Finance Authority; Kelly Flannery, chief financial officer of Charlotte, N.C.; Emily Brock, director of the federal liaison center of the Government Finance Officers Association; and Chellie Cameron, chief executive officer of the Philadelphia International Airport.

The other 2019 Trailblazers from the private sector are Paula Dagan, managing director and head of Northeast region at Wells Fargo Securities; Michela Daliana, a partner at Hawkins Delafield & Wood; Diana Hamilton, president of Sycamore Advisors; Natasha Holiday, managing director at RBC Capital Markets; Renee Boicourt, managing director at Lamont Financial Services; and Sheila Papelbon, director and head of business development for public not-for-profits at BNY Mellon.

Last year's winners of the Freda Johnson Award were Katano Kasaine, director of finance for Oakland, Calif., and Noreen White, co-founder of Acacia Financial Group.

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