The Northeast Regional Committee of Women in Public Finance is looking to expand in the new year by adding more members and events and unveiling a Web site to help bring participants together.

The group's next gathering is an educational panel featuring former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro as the keynote speaker to discuss different career paths within public service and public finance.

The event, Women in Public Finance: The Road to Public Service, will be held on Jan. 29 at Blank Rome LLP's office in Manhattan, where Ferraro is of counsel.

Other speakers include New Jersey public finance director Nancy Feldman,New York City deputy comptroller for public finance Carol S. Kostik,Connecticut Treasurer Denise L. Nappier, and Pennsylvania Treasurer Robin Wiessmann.

The Northeast chapter, founded in 2007, is an affiliate of Women in Public Finance headquartered in Chicago. The national organization began in 1997.

Beth Smayda, managing director of MBIA Insurance Corp., and JoAnne Kennedy, who will be joining ButcherMark Financial Advisors LLC on Jan. 5 as managing director, co-founded the Northeast Regional Committee as a local networking and educational organization for women in the region.

The group currently focuses on New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Smayda and Kennedy said once the chapter's Web site is up and running, it will be a resource for women in those states and in other Northeast states as well.

The Northeast Regional Committee, which does not have an annual membership fee, currently has 700 individuals on its mailing list. The group relies on corporate sponsorship, with MBIA serving as one the chapter's main financial supporters.

The upcoming event will give women who are early on in their public finance or public service careers different perspectives on the various opportunities in the industry, although Smayda and Kennedy said the many dramatic events in the municipal market over the past year will probably enter the discussion as well.

"We're trying to figure out what are the things that are really relevant, particularly to the young people coming up," Kennedy said. "And we're also trying to give them a sense of encouragement that there really are good opportunities in the public sector and in public finance, because it has been, and I think particularly for the young people, really disturbing times."

Along with providing educational opportunities, the chapter offers a mentoring program, which currently includes more than 100 mentors and mentees. The organization is looking to host another mentoring event in the spring.

"It's just helpful to young women forming connections and networks, which helps in their careers," Smayda said. "But also learning from more senior women in the industry what's worked for them, how to handle sticky situations, and just provide a non-biased ear to listen to some of these things."

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