Months after the departure of longtime Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham, the Colorado Springs-based nonprofit has hired a new leader.
Following a five-month national search — during which Chief Operating Officer Shelli Brunswick temporarily filled the position — the organization announced Thursday that it has hired retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Thomas Zelibor as its CEO, effective April 30.
Zelibor has most recently served as chairman and CEO of Lightwave Logic, a publicly traded tech company based in Longmont. He has also served as CEO of Flatiron’s Solutions and vice president of Science Applications International Corp.
“The Space Foundation team is very pleased to have Tom join the Space Foundation as the Chief Executive Officer,” Space Foundation board chair James Ellis Jr. said in the release. “His impressive list of accomplishments in government, industry and operational space, along with his broad leadership and educational experience, will ensure that the Space Foundation continues to grow and evolve to serve our members and the global space industry.”
Zelibor’s resumé also includes a number of positions with space-related organizations, including director of the eSpace Incubator at the Center for Space Entrepreneurship, director of global operations for U.S. Strategic Command, commander of Naval Space Command and dean of the College of Operational and Strategic Leadership at the Naval War College.
Zelibor is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he studied oceanography. He went on to become a naval aviator and became the commander of Task Force Fifty, which conducted major combat operations in Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Following his installment as CEO, Zelibor will work out of the organization’s headquarters at 4425 Arrowswest Drive in Colorado Springs and lead a team of 53 employees (located at the headquarters, as well as locals such as California, Florida, Texas, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.).
“I am honored and humbled to have been selected for this position. I really look forward to joining and working with the superb Space Foundation team,” Zelibor said in the release. “Starting on Day 1, I am committed to listening, learning and collectively exploring how we can build on the great successes this world-renowned organization has achieved over many years.”
Zelibor was unable to be reached for additional comment.
Pulham left the Space Foundation in October after 18 years with the organization (15 years of which were spent as CEO) after being criticized for comments he allegedly made about Hillary Clinton on his personal Facebook page. According to industry newspaper Space News, he was also criticized for social media posts in which he described his first-class travels on behalf of the nonprofit.
The Business Journal reported in October that the flights in question were paid for by the Space Foundation, in addition to Pulham’s annual salary of $270,032.