The Challenger Learning Center of Alaska will lose its director, Steve Horn, after next week.
Horn, who has been with the center for two years as director, will take the position of operations director for the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Committee, the organization charged with representing the community in promoting environmentally safe oil facility operations in the inlet.
"This is actually really a positive move for me," Horn said. "It's a good opportunity for me to move into a long-term position."
In his new position with CIRCAC, Horn will oversee a preventions, response, operations and safety committee, and a protocol committee that reviews and regulates emergency contingency plans. Steve Howell, CIRCAC director of public outreach, said Horn's background in raising funds made him an attractive asset.
"He has a long history of consulting with different groups in areas on funding and in issues important to us," Howell said.
The position came open when CIRCAC's executive director Jim Carter resigned last month and operations director Mike Munger transitioned into the leadership role.
"That's going to be really nice, because rather than coming into the role fresh and having to learn your way, he'll have the advantage of having Mike on hand to help bring him up to speed."
Horn said his desire for longevity came as a result of the precarious financial situation the Challenger Center has found itself in as funding recently began to run short.
The center's primary benefactor, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, completes his tenure as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee in 2004. Horn said Stevens isn't expected to provide the same level of support once his tenure is done.
"There's been over $9.5 million put into the center, and over 90 percent of that came from Sen. Stevens through NASA," Horn said. "In the long run, it's going to take more than grants to keep the center going. Just the maintenance of the building and its infrastructure is a significant burden for volunteers to bear."
Horn said instead of becoming a learning institution funded through the state and the University of Alaska system, the program is in danger of increasing the fees charged to students who visit. But grants the organization acquired to fund students' visits also are running thin, he said.
"Somebody has to pay the heat. But the organization never intended for students to bear that burden."
Horn said he did not, however, seek out the CIRCAC position because of circumstances at the Challenger Center.
"The opportunity at the RCAC was brought to my attention. I was not looking at the time," he said. "I have been, and still remain, committed to the Challenger Center's programs."
Horn started with the Challenger Center in February 2001, after working as Kenai Peninsula Home Mortgage manager for Wells Fargo. His last day at the center will be April 11. He will start at CIRCAC on April 14.
The Challenger board will meet today to discuss the center's future.
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