Branson Urged Governor Martinez to Keep Rick Homans as NMSA Chief

Sir Richard Branson and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

In an interview with the Las Cruces Sun-News, Gov. Susana Martinez said she dismissed New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Rick Homans despite a plea from Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson:

Martinez acknowledged that Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson called her to request that former spaceport Executive Director Rick Homans be retained, but said she needed to make a change, in part because her team has not been able to conduct a thorough review of spaceport operations. She removed both Homans and the spaceport board, and has yet to name replacements.

“What we want to do is get a hold of the contract (with Virgin Galactic) and make sure we know what the long-term commitment is financially,” she said. “They have not been very willing to share the very hard data of what is the state’s commitment long-term.”

Martinez reiterated her support for the spaceport project, and said there would be a sense of urgency in filling the positions.

“We want to go forward, but we want to have a clear understanding of what we’re going forward with,” she said.

The degree to which Homans and others at NMSA cooperated with the new governor has been the subject of dispute. Homans said he fulfilled the governor’s requests on a timely basis. Homans had publicly campaigned to keep his job, so it would be odd if he were not forthcoming with Martinez’s requests.

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