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Chicago remembers Commissioner Robert Steele

Crusader staff report

Funeral services are now complete for Cook County Board Commissioner Robert Steele, who died Monday, June 19. News reports said Steele had been recovering from pneumonia. He was 55.

Steele served as President Pro Tempore for the Cook County Board and was Commissioner of the county’s 2nd District.

He also held positions as President of the Forest Preserve District Board; Chairman of the Environmental Control Committee and the Contract Compliance Committee; and was vice chairman of the Health and Hospitals Committee.

In addition, Steele devoted his time to several local and national boards. He was a member of the Mt. Sinai Hospital board of directors, the Gift of Hope board of directors and was president of the board of trustees of Frazier Preparatory Academy.

Nationally, Steele worked as a member of the board of the National Association of Counties Officials (NACO) and was a member of the board of the National Association of Black County Officials (NABCO). He was president of NABCO from 2008-2010.

Dozens of colleagues and political leaders sent tributes after learning of Steele’s death. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said, “I am saddened to learn of the death today of Commissioner Robert Steele. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”

Steele’s family released a statement saying in part, “Robert was affectionately called the ‘Man of Steele’ and he had the biggest heart for people. He loved working in the trenches among community organizations, churches, schools, at-risk youth, and senior citizens. A tireless public servant, Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele will be deeply missed by the communities he served, his family and his children.”

Congressman Danny K. Davis reiterated the sentiments of those mourning Steele’s death, saying, “I am saddened to know of the passing of Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele, whom I have known since his childhood days. I lived in the same neighborhood with the Steele family since the year Commissioner Steele was born. I count myself as a Steele family friend.” He added further that he “had the pleasure of watching Commissioner Steele grow from a child into becoming an outstanding local and national leader.”

Commissioner Richard Boykin in a prepared statement acknowledged Steele as “a dedicated public servant whose family has represented the West Side for more than 30 years on the County Board. He first took office in 2006, and for the last 11 years worked to better the community he represented. His presence will be missed by myself, our colleagues and all of the Second District. I spoke to former Board President Bobbie Steele and offered my sincerest condolences to her, and to his entire family.”

Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown noted that Commissioner “Steele was the committed voice of the community on the Board of the Cook County Commissioners for 11 years. He truly cared about the residents of Chicago and Cook County, and especially had an affinity for his West Side community, where he provided leadership for the Empowerment Zone program.”

Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Timothy C. Evans recalled, “Commissioner Steele was an effective advocate not only for his district but for the justice system as well. He took particular interest in the young men and women in the system, and I will always be thankful for his support to programs that helped individuals find a positive path to travel in life.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson, saying he was “deeply saddened over the death of Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele,” remembered him as “a dedicated public servant in the tradition of his mother Bobbie Steele, the first female president of the Cook County Board.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement that said: “Robert Steele was a passionate and committed Chicagoan who dedicated his life to public service and strengthening communities. From his tenure as Community Outreach Manager of the Chicago Park District to his time as a Cook Country Commissioner, Robert was a proven advocate for the city’s health services. While he hailed from North Lawndale, Robert was deeply devoted to Chicago’s West and South Sides. Amy and I join with all Chicago- ans in mourning his loss and extend our deepest condolences to the Steele family on this difficult day.”

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