Since New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez took office nearly three weeks ago, the organization overseeing the construction of Spaceport America has lost its executive director, general counsel and board of directors. This is creating concerns about a leadership vacuum as the $209 million taxpayer-funded project moves toward completion later this year.
Former New Mexico Spaceport Authority directors D. Kent Evans and Gary Whitehead told the Las Cruces Sun-News that they were surprised over the abruptness of their dismissals last Friday.
Evans said he received a “short letter, three sentences,” letting him know he was no longer a member of the board.
“None of the board have been talked to or consulted,” Evans said.
Whitehead, who co-owns a car dealership in T or C, said he “absolutely (was) not” expecting the action, even though [Executive Director Rick] Homans was forced out earlier this month. He expected some dialogue.
“I thought they would call meetings and outline goals (for going forward),” Whitehead said. “And then maybe asking for resignations.”
Martinez has appointed Economic Development Secretary nominee Jon Barela to oversee the spaceport while a search is conducted for a new executive director and board. A six-member Spaceport Transition Team will assist Barela and provide advice about the projects operations, financing and future.
The Republican governor, who took over from Democrat Bill Richardson, said she wants to ensure that money is being spent wisely and that the project is on a self-sustaining trajectory. She has ordered an audit of the spaceport’s finances.