A group of top government finance professionals last week weighed in on working in the public sector and opportunities in their industry - and those speakers all happened to be women.

The northeast chapter of Women in Public Finance held a networking event in midtown Manhattan Thursday evening to allow women in the industry to hear from high-level municipal officials about their experiences of working in government. Blank Rome LLP hosted the event, with Geraldine Ferraro, a partner at the firm, serving as keynote speaker.

More than 100 bankers, bond lawyers, and public finance professionals attended the event.

Connecticut Treasurer Denise Nappier, New Jersey's director of public finance Nancy Feldman, New York City deputy comptroller Carol Kostik, and former Pennsylvania Treasurer Robin Wiessmann spoke before the group on how they got into public finance and their reflections on working within the public sector.

One common theme was the personal satisfaction the women gained by holding government positions and serving the public.

Ferraro, beyond being the first woman on a presidential ticket for a national party, served for six years in Congress where she sat on the Budget Committee, among other panels. Later posts included serving as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission from 1994 through 1996.

"They call it public service, but it's really exciting service and it's service that gives you much more than you actually put into it," Ferraro told the audience. "Whatever the job is that you do."

Feldman, a former credit analyst specialist who previously worked at Goldman, Sachs & Co, left the private sector three years ago in order to have a closer connection to public works projects.

Two weeks after taking over New Jersey's debt office, she discovered why she made the right decision when talking to the press about a bond deal. Feldman and her team had just completed a refinancing of $2.8 billion of New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund debt to extend the state's road and bridge program for another five years.

"It was so amazing because the way I felt and what I said was not that this was important to me because it had something to do with my performance review, that it had something that might impact my future promotions or pay," Feldman said in her speech. "I felt that it was so important to have done it right and done it well for the people of New Jersey and to make sure that the residents and the taxpayers got the best that they could get out of this particular program."

Other speakers mentioned the satisfaction of bringing change and new energy into arenas that have been, and still are, dominated by men. Nappier, Connecticut's first female treasurer and an elected official, believes municipal and government officials can open the door for women and minority-owned firms while gaining the best results for taxpayers.

"I understand the importance of getting a good investment return on our pension dollars," Nappier said. "I understand the importance of safeguarding the assets. I understand the importance of getting the best possible bond-price performance and I don't concede or compromise my fiduciary responsibilities.

"But I also appreciate the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of our citizens and businesses alike and also with those of us that have been traditionally been shut out to enable us to climb the ladder as high as our talent and our energy will take us."

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