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Midwest public finance community grieving over sudden death of PFM's Claire Goodman

The Midwest public finance community is mourning the loss of Claire Goodman, a veteran financial advisor, world traveler, proud Canadian, and dog lover who died suddenly Friday. She was 41.

Goodman, a director in PFM Financial Advisors LLC’s Chicago office, worked with leading Midwest borrowers from Chicago, Cook County and Illinois to issuers in Ohio and Wisconsin.

Colleagues and clients alike called Goodman a smart and skilled technical professional at the deal table who cared deeply about her clients and acted as a mentor for younger professionals. All describe Goodman as a caring, funny, and genuinely nice person whose friendships in the community ran deep.

“Claire was always a consummate financial professional who also took time to be supportive of others and was just a generally nice person you enjoyed being around,” said Chicago Chief Financial Officer Jennie Huang Bennett, whose relationship with Goodman dates to Bennett’s tenure as an investment banker before joining the Chicago Public Schools finance team in 2012. “To lose that kind of talent is devastating.”

“Claire’s unexpected passing was a great shock to all of us at PFM, and we will all miss her terribly. It is always difficult to lose a colleague, and particularly so for Claire, who was so young, talented, and well-liked by her peers and clients alike,” PFM Chief Executive Officer Dan Hartman said. "Claire was a talented advisor, and her devotion to her clients, along with her creative and thoughtful approach, left a lasting impact for the clients and projects she worked on.”

“Claire was my right arm and she was the most wonderful person,” said Jill Jaworski, a managing director who leads PFM's Chicago practice. “Claire worked on a whole range of clients from triple-A to sub-investment grade, but she really loved and shone on the most difficult, complex credits. She had a great understanding of distressed credits and was an expert in strategies to enhance their security structures. She was a star at PFM."

In an internal message to colleagues, Jaworski wrote: “Claire has been responsible for managing our team in Chicago for several years. She was a steady hand at the wheel, always kind and able to get the best out of everyone she worked with.”

Jaworski began working with Goodman in 2011 when PFM bought Scott Balice Strategies after its co-founder Lois Scott sold the firm to join Chicago as chief financial officer.

“It seems like yesterday that I hired Claire, a newly minted economist with a quick mind and warm smile,” said Scott, who currently sits on several boards, including the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago and Kroll Bond Rating Agency and is a co-founder of the 51 Fund. “To watch her bloom and grow to become such an important part of the public finance community was the privilege of a lifetime.”

“Claire was smart, well-prepared, analytic, insightful, never dropped the ball and had a wonderful, quirky sense of humor,” Scott said. “Her clients worshipped her and always told me what a special person she was. She made a difference every day in making communities across the country stronger and more resilient places.”

Goodman earned a bachelor’s in economics at Canada’s University of Lethbridge and then a master’s in economics at the University of Georgia. Before joining Scott Balice, Goodman worked on strategic planning for nonprofit entities and taught and conducted economic research at the University of Georgia where she became a published author in game theory, risk management, and market competition.

Goodman was an early member of the Scott Balice team along with Julia Harris, who recently joined Siebert Williams Shank & Co. LLC to establish a specialty higher education group. “We grew up as a family there,” Harris said. “Claire was wicked smart. She caught everything and was really a creative thinker who knew the market so well. She was kind and she was funny. It’s just a huge loss for the industry.”

“Claire was my biggest supporter both professionally and personally as my mentor and friend for over a decade. We had so many inside jokes that will always make me laugh,” said Shannon Jacobson, a senior managing consultant at PFM who had joined Scott Balice after graduate school. “She was fiercely witty, loyal, empathetic, and smart."

“Claire was a friend and my advisor when I was an issuer, my co-advisor when I was a municipal adviser and she was always the same Claire no matter what position you held,” said Melanie Shaker, who recently joined FHN Financial Capital Markets to establish a Midwest banking presence.

Goodman loved dogs — especially her own — a pit bull mix named Hot Sauce. She loved good food and enjoyed wine and old fashioneds. As for the origin of her dog's unique name: "People tend to be afraid of pit bulls, and she wanted a name that was disarming, it worked," her brother Russell Goodman said.

Goodman’s passion was traveling — especially international — and she made many treks on her own including a visit to Russia several years ago. “She was quite an adventurer and had no fears or qualms about venturing out on her own. She really lived life to the fullest,” Jaworski said.

Chicago winters were no match for her Canadian blood and she could get away with wearing ballerina flats sans socks in the winter without complaining of the cold. “She really fit in well in Chicago,” Jaworski said.

While a native of Canada, she came to consider Chicago her home, Russell Goodman said.

“She loved her work and she worked hard because she felt she was making a difference for the people she was working for and working with and was proud of what she and her team could accomplish,” Goodman said of his sister. “She loved her team. She spoke often about Jill and how amazing she was as a mentor, and she herself took her mentoring duties really seriously.”

The cause of death is not known. Goodman felt ill last Friday but worked through the day with the Ohio team preparing for an upcoming bond pricing. She died at home later that day.

Goodman is survived by her parents Greg and Barb Goodman; her brother, his wife, Elaine, and their child Genevieve "Evie" Goodman; as well as her partner Antonio Cruzado.

A local gathering for family and friends will be held in the future.

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