Alaska News

Alaska’s public aerospace company selects new leader after governor rejected previous choice

The Alaska Aerospace Corp. board of directors selected a new president and CEO this month after Gov. Mike Dunleavy refused to approve their previous choice last year.

Alaska Aerospace, a public company that operates a rocket launch site in Kodiak, will be led by retired Alaska Air National Guard Col. John Oberst, the corporation said Monday.

The board had previously selected Sean Thomas for the position in August. But the board rescinded its offer to Thomas in November amid unexplained pushback from Dunleavy, who did not sign off on the hire, forcing the board to launch a new search for a chief executive after a monthslong selection process.

“The Alaska Aerospace Corporation Board unanimously selected Colonel Oberst after an exhaustive nation-wide search,” the company said Monday, three months after the board voted to terminate the hiring offer it had made to Thomas.

Dunleavy last year also removed the board’s longtime chair, Robert McCoy, director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. McCoy has not yet been replaced on the board, which is missing two members, after another member — retired four-star Gen. Carrol H. “Howie” Chandler — left the board in late 2023.

The board is currently chaired by Lindsay Knight, a Kodiak gym owner. Knight did not respond to a request for comment on the recent selection process.

Oberst, who retired from service in the Alaska Air National Guard in 2021, issued a statement thanking Dunleavy and the board of directors “for offering me this amazing opportunity.” Oberst said he is “stepping into a highly efficient, experienced, and successful organization.”


Oberst was not available for an interview.

Oberst retired as the director of staff of the Alaska Air National Guard at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, according to a biography provided by the company. A spokesperson did not respond to a request for a copy of Oberst’s full resume.

A two-page letter from Knight included in an annual report posted in January references the departures of both McCoy and Chandler from the board. The letter also acknowledges the departure of John Cramer, who had served last year as interim president and CEO while a search was underway for a permanent replacement. But the report didn’t acknowledge that Thomas had initially been selected for the chief executive role, nor did it mention that a new search was underway.

The Kodiak spaceport hosted a single rocket launch in 2023. The company provided support services for four launches in spaceports outside Alaska.

“The financial position of Alaska Aerospace remains strong,” the company reported. Its report details $15.5 million in operating revenue, and a similar sum in operating expenses.

Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The AP and Report for America and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at