Wade Free’s 40-year career with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation began in 1983 when he was hired as Fish Hatchery Assistant after receiving a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology with Management Option from Oklahoma State University. After three years, he earned a promotion in the agency’s then called Game Division as an Area Manager. Shortly after a decade of service he was promoted to Assistant Chief of Game Division, where he immediately went to work influencing the Department to change the name of the division to Wildlife Division, to more accurately reflect and recognize native, non-game species and the role of the agency in managing their populations and habitats.
Taking a non-traditional path to the executive leadership office, Wade left the headquarters and returned to the field for a 15-year stint as a Regional Wildlife Supervisor where he was able to help share the field perspective with administration while also being able to raise his kids in the rural environment that his family wanted to experience. In 2011, with his family established in rural northwest Oklahoma, he was promoted to Assistant Director of Operations. In 2023 he was appointed as Interim Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.