Title: 2005 Woman of Year: Marlene Strickland
Type: Woman of the Year in Agriculture Award
Karen Andrle, Daughter: I remember my mom growing up as the type of person that basically it was about everybody else. It wasn’t about her.
Shelly Linthicum, Daughter: It’s not just children, its adults and people too that she comes into contact with. She’s very giving. She would do anything for any of us, and she wants to help everybody.
Karen Andrle, Daughter: She always wanted to do for other people whether it was a needy family, someone down the street got hurt. We were down there, trying to do stuff for them.
Don Strickland, Husband: A very loving, committed, compassionate, loyal friend. That’s her make up. To be all that all the time. She’s just one of those people that’s just hard to condense into one or two sentences. She’s so many things all at once.
Marlene Strickland was born in Sarasota in 1945 into a pioneer Florida farming family. Hard working from the start, she was raised on her family’s commercial cow-calf ranch in eastern Sarasota County. After graduating from Fort Myers High School, Marlene began working at a local Savings & Loan, where she honed the organizational skills that would help her succeed. The following year she married her longtime friend, Don Strickland, and began their special partnership that would be both personal and professional.
Marlene Strickland: My faith is my most important thing in my life and my life with Don. They run pretty close there. I don’t think I can say they’re exactly equal but they’re pretty close there because both things have given me joy, contentment and peace.
The Stricklands moved back to Sarasota and began a life together that has always been dedicated to family. The couple raised two daughters, Shelly and Karen, and today has a close-knit extended family that includes Don’s mother, Mrs. Myrtle Miller, their sons-in-law, Mark Linthicum and Scot Andrle, granddaughter Sydney, and three grandsons: Clay, Jordan and Austin.
Shelly Linthicum, Daughter: Our family is extremely close. I don’t know that I’ve ever really come into contact with anybody that appears to be as close as our family. There’s no way to describe how close we are. We call each other. We talk to each other. We share things. We include each other in pretty much everything we do.
In the mid-80’s, the couple established Land Electric, an electrical contracting business. For over 20 years Marlene has worked alongside Don doing the books, acting as secretary and more. Being with each other 24 hours a day has never been a problem.
Don Strickland, Husband: No matter if we’re in the office eight or ten hours a day together and we leave and get home, no conflict has arisen in the 21 years we’ve had the business. And it’s really been a really good working relationship for us.
Commitment to family has always been important to Marlene. When her daughters were young, she looked for an activity the family could do together, focusing on a common, worthwhile goal; one that would provide leadership training, life skills, and community involvement. For this the Stricklands turned to 4-H.
Marlene Strickland: Many people feel that 4-H is just about livestock or it’s just about sewing because that’s what they did when they were younger. And 4-H is so much more than that. 4-H teaches children the three areas that are most important are achievement, leadership and citizenship. If you’ve taught them a little bit of each of those things you’ve given them a vast knowledge about life.
Marlene and Don came on board themselves as volunteer leaders for the club named the Ridin’ Rednecks. The couple thrived in the organization. In 1989 Marlene received 4-H’s Volunteer of the Year Award and represented Florida at the National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. Under the Stricklands’ leadership, the club collected food and furniture for hurricane victims and set up a shelter for pets of families displaced in the storms. The club has also received accolades when it helped Sarasota’s Reef Ball Development Group make and sink 400-pound concrete balls into Sarasota Bay to create reef habitat for marine life.
Although their daughters went off to pursue their careers, the Stricklands stayed with 4-H. Their commitment to the Ridin’ Rednecks is still going strong -- the couple volunteers over a thousand hours to the club each year. They have opened their barn to club members who need space for their animal projects.
Every day, before or after school, the kids come to feed and groom their animals. Marlene helps them keep the necessary records. Don not only teaches them how to raise their animals, as a livestock judge, he also teaches them how to show their animals in the arena.
Marlene Strickland: I look at that as knowing that you have sense enough to know to ask questions. That there’s always something you can learn and you can profit by that because you can either pass it on or utilize it someway in your own life. And that’s important to do that -- not just to be here to collect dust but to go ahead, and if it’s dust, scatter that dust to where it can do good or to move so that you’re not getting the dust on you .
Running the Ridin’ Rednecks prepared Marlene well for the many roles she has taken on in her community and her industry. Drawing upon the leadership ability she developed at 4-H, as well as her farming background and sharp organizational skills, Marlene began to extend her volunteer work. In 1985 she became a member of the Sarasota County CattleWomen’s Association and the Florida CattleWomen’s Association. Since then she’s held every leadership position at the local and state level. In 2000, the Florida CattleWomen’s Association named her Cattle Woman of the Year.
Her experience in Florida agriculture and knowledge of the Beef Industry lead her to involvement at the national level. She rose through the ranks of the American National Cattle Women, Inc. before being elected its president in 2005. As president she promoted consumer education, discussed beef-related issues with congressional representatives, informed the membership of the industry’s legislative activities, and built up ANCW’s membership.
Marlene Strickland: The challenge is to be sure that you’re representing the industry in the manner that all the membership would think you were doing the right thing. And that’s important to me. It’s important for me to go there and represent them to my very best.
During her tenure, Marlene oversaw two of the Association’s premier events, the National Beef Cook-Off, an annual contest to create an exceptional beef recipe, and the National Beef Ambassador Program, a public speaking competition for high school students.
Marlene’s involvement in national matters keeps her on the road. But through it all, she takes comfort in knowing that her family is always there to support her. Calendars are consulted and schedules are arranged to help each other. Karen steps in and helps out with the office work. Don assists by working out her travel agendas and booking her flights.
Don Strickland, Husband: Marlene is a walking billboard. She’s been able to travel all over the United States, and no matter where she is she’s talking about the beef industry or agriculture to someone. And every conversation she’s always managed to bring that up, and has encouraged people to look at it as a really sustainable way of life and the breadbasket of the world as far as where our food comes from. And she has really lifted Florida up as far as agriculture; everywhere she goes and speaks it’s “Florida Agriculture.”
When she is not on the road traveling, she can be found mentoring young students on the importance of agriculture.
Through her boundless energy and enthusiasm she has won admirers in every sector of her life. Some attribute her success to keen intelligence, strong work ethic, and sensitivity to the needs of others, but she attributes her accomplishments to a simple 3-step process: decide what needs to be done, figure out a way, then do it well and completely. And, as is her usual selfness nature, Marlene gives credit to others for her ability to do good works.
Marlene Strickland: (It) all comes from having a partner that will work with you and a family that will work with you. And our family unit has done that … Everybody is looking out for the other person knowing that they have the support and the love of that person so you can accomplish whatever you need to do.