Strate, who retired as CEO and superintendent at Autry Tech in 2015 after 24 years of service, was one of five CareerTech leaders inducted into the Oklahoma CareerTech Hall of Fame in November.

Strate moved to Enid in 1991, when he accepted the superintendent position at Autry Tech. During his tenure, enrollment rose from 2,000 to more than 16,000 students served annually, according to an Autry Tech press release. 

During his time as superintendent Strate also began the Autry Educational Foun­ dation, which awards grants to students in need. To date, more than $500,000 has been raised for the endowment.

Strate has served as the president and legislative chair for Oklahoma Technology Centers’ Superintendent’s Association, and was active in Oklahoma Vocational Education Teacher Development System, Oklahoma Vocational and Leadership Development Committee and Distance Education Policy Committee.

Strate holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Central Missouri State University and was awarded a doctorate of education by the University of Missouri.

In 2008, the James W. Strate Center for Business Development was dedicated. This incubator provides professional business training to those interested in starting, expanding or operating a small business.

Strate was named the Business Person of the Year for 2005-06 by Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce, Francis Tuttle Career Excellence Award from Oklahoma Vocational Association in 2001 and Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 2015.

In retirement, Strate raises registered Angus cattle on the family ranch southeast of Covington, and he remains active in Enid Rotary Club, the Community Development Support Association board, at First United Methodist Church and on the business selection committee at the business development center.

In January, Strate will become chair of the board of governors for St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center.

Strate said he’s seen Enid grow and diversify its economy since he arrived in 1991, when the community still was recovering from an oil bust.

“I think the big positives we have today go back to the all the cooperation we have had with industry and all the education institutions,” Strate said.

He said Autry has been able to work with community and business leaders, 10 area high schools, Northwestern Oklahoma State University and Nor­thern Oklahoma College to grow new businesses and train a diversified workforce.

“There’s just a real element of cooperation here, and that’s what makes it all click and work,” Strate said. “People are open-minded and they see the big picture, and that’s critical.”

Strate said that kind of cooperation will become even more vital as a generation of skilled workers and tradespeople approaches retirement.

“We can’t grow the economy without a skilled workforce,” Strate said. “The population is getting older, we’re going to have a lot of retirements and we’re going to need people to fill those positions. It’s important for people to realize how critical it is to have a skilled workforce.”

Strate said Enid’s future growth also will rely on its continued ability to home-grow businesses like GEFCO, Central Machine and Tool, Groendyke Transport, W B Johnston Grain and AdvancePierre Foods.

“Every community wants to land a Dell Computer, a Microsoft or a Google,” Strate said, “but the reality is in a community like ours, we have to home grow them, and we have to do everything we can to encourage that growth.”

Strate and his wife, Sharon, have been married 52 years.

The couple have one daughter, Christie, and one son, Jim Jr. and wife Janet, grandson Jarred, grandson Justin and wife Lexi and great-granddaughter Layton Jane.