U.S. Space & Rocket Center CEO, executive director stepping down

Updated: Dec. 5, 2019 at 2:00 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - After leading the U.S. Space & Rocket Center for nine years, CEO and executive director Deborah Barnhart is stepping down.

Barnhart’s departure is effective Dec. 31

“It has been my honor and a pleasure to serve this institution and the State of Alabama,” Barnhart said in a news release. "The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is the center of our community and the icon of our mutual achievement. Our work has influenced millions around the world to new personal heights. There is no more satisfying legacy than the accomplishments of our Space Camp alumni, the national pride we inspire in our visitors as they learn about the amazing work underway by Team Redstone.”

She now plans to pursue other missions in Washington D.C., Denmark and the Gulf Coast and will retain a home in Huntsville.

John Nerger, chairman of the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission, noted that the space center has seen an 89 percent increase in gross revenue and record-breaking Space Camp attendance durign Barnhart’s tenure.

“On behalf of the Alabama Space and Science Exhibit Commission, I want to say how grateful we are to Dr Barnhart for her strong leadership, creative vision, devoted service and unmatched legacy,” Nerger said. “She has earned the respect and admiration of so many throughout the Tennessee Valley, the State of Alabama and across the country. Hers are difficult shoes to fill so we will work hard to identify and select a worthy successor.”

Barnhart previously served as director of Space Camp from 1986 to 1990.

Louie Ramirez, a long-time center leader who has served as its chief financial officer, will serve as interim CEO until Barnhart’s replacement is named.

ASSEC has named Dr. Barnhart CEO Emeritus, and she will advise and support the recruitment and hiring of a new CEO, a process that is expected to take 60 to 90 days.

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