J.D. Strong Named Director of Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Strong brings 23 years of experience working in the environmental arena

J.D. Strong, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and former Oklahoma Secretary of the Environment, was selected by the eight-member Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission to serve as the new Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

J.D. Strong in a suit in front of greenery

"I firmly believe that sustainably managing and protecting Oklahoma's incredible natural resources is one of our most critical duties to fuel our future prosperity," J.D. Strong, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, who was selected to be the next Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said. "I look forward to continue building upon my strong relationships built over decades of persistently working with legislators, sister agencies, partner organizations and key stakeholders." 

Strong brings 23 years of experience working in the environmental arena to his new position. He has been Executive Director of the Water Resources Board since 2010, and was former Gov. Brad Henry's Secretary of the Environment from 2008-10. Before that, he served as Director of Environmental Affairs then Chief of Staff in the state Office of the Secretary of the Environment.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said, "J.D. Strong is a proven leader at the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, leading the agency to be named as one of the top workplaces for the last three years. He also worked diligently on the historic water settlement with the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations."

Strong is a fifth-generation Oklahoman from Weatherford, and he earned a degree in wildlife ecology from Oklahoma State University in 1993.

"I have long believed that the ODWC is one of the finest agencies in all of state government," Strong said. "I am fortunate to lead ODWC as its Director because of the opportunity to lead such an amazing, talented and dedicated group of employees.

"ODWC employees deserve someone that will always appreciate their tireless, and often thankless, public service, as well as someone that will constantly kindle the ODWC esprit de corps." 

Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman John P. Zelbst of Meers said Strong is planning to begin his new duties Oct. 17. "J.D. will keep leading us into the new century in a time when we are seeing so many changes." 

Longtime Commissioner John Groendyke of Enid said Strong was an ideal leadership candidate. "We have a lot of close working relationships with the various agencies that he has experience with." 

Groendyke mentioned Strong's efforts working with Native Americans to resolve water rights issues, saying those relationships will benefit the Wildlife Department as more compacts for hunting and fishing licenses are negotiated. 

Strong is an active hunter and angler, and he is aware of most issues that are concerns of the Department's constituents, Groendyke said. 

Current Director Richard Hatcher plans to retire Oct. 1 after a 37-year career, the past seven as the Department's top administrator. Zelbst said, "I hated to see him decide to retire." 

Groendyke praised Hatcher as "an excellent director. He kept everybody on track and everybody focused." Employee morale and the spirit of teamwork throughout the Department have never been better, Groendyke said. "He's done an excellent job." 

Fallin said, "I want to compliment and thank Richard Hatcher for his 37 years of service to the state and his tireless work to increase opportunities for Oklahomans to enjoy the outdoors. I wish him the best in retirement. I also want to thank the members of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission for their extensive search for a new director."

Wildlife Commissioners said Hatcher has offered his assistance to create a smooth transition during the next several weeks. 

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is the state agency responsible for managing fish and wildlife in the state. The Department issues hunting and fishing licenses, and provides important information about outdoor recreation to the public. The Department enforces rules and regulations, and has numerous programs to provide healthy resources and to serve constituents. 

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Wildlife Department. The Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate.