An active outdoorsman and fifth-generation Oklahoman from Weatherford, J. D. Strong landed what he calls his “dream job” when hired as Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in 2016, after gaining 23 years of experience in conserving Oklahoma’s natural resources. While finishing his wildlife ecology degree at Oklahoma State University in 1993, Strong started as a field temporary for the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) performing aquatic research. Over the next two decades, he worked his way up to Secretary of Environment for Governor Brad Henry in 2008, and Executive Director of OWRB in 2010.
Director Strong quickly dove in at ODWC, helping institute a new, user-friendly digital licensing system and leading the ODWC through a long-overdue rebranding initiative. During his tenure, ODWC has expanded its public hunting and fishing land holdings by over 80,000 acres, including four new Wildlife Management Areas.
Other accomplishments during Strong’s tenure include a massive renovation of ODWC’s headquarters near the Capitol, launching the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Foundation, roll-out of a new walk-in hunting and fishing Oklahoma Land Access Program, developing the first agency strategic plan in decades, expansion of the Stars & Stripes License Project supporting veterans and soldiers, development of NBA star Paul George’s Fishing in the Schools partnership, and fostering a new partnership with the National Rifle Association to provide free online hunter education.
Director Strong holds a number of leadership positions at the state and national level, including:
- Chair, United Way of Central Oklahoma’s State Charitable Campaign
- Chair, Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports
- Secretary-Treasurer, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA)
- Vice Chair, AFWA’s Trust Funds Committee
- Chair of Awards Committee, Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
- Member, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Joint Federal/State Task Force on Federal Assistance Policy
- Executive Committee Member, National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative
- Immediate Past President, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Assistant Director, Operations
Wade Free was named the Assistant Director of Operations in 2011. He supervises the fish and wildlife management programs (Fish and Wildlife divisions), Law Enforcement and Information and Education divisions. The Assistant Director aids in executive duties and serves as Acting Director in the Director's absence.
Chief Financial Officer
The Chief Financial Officer supervises Licensing, Accounting, Human Resources, Information Technology, Property, and Communication Personnel.
Communication and Education Chief
Nels Rodefeld has been the Chief of Information and Education Division since 2006. He oversees education programs, publications, television, and website content.
Bill Dinkines has been Chief of Wildlife Division since 2019. He oversees all biologists and technicians on Wildlife Management Areas as well as wildlife research initiatives.
Kenneth Cunningham has been Chief of Fisheries Division since 2022. He oversees four state fish hatcheries, a research laboratory, and regional biologists and technicians.
Law Enforcement Chief
Nathan Erdman has been Chief of Law Enforcement Division since 2019. He oversees over 100 game wardens stationed in all 77 counties.