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Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele Dies After Long Illness

By Heather Cherone | June 19, 2017 3:54pm | Updated on June 19, 2017 4:40pm
 Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele
Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele
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flickr/Joselito Tagarao; Facebook/Commissioner Robert Steels

NORTH LAWNDALE — Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele, 55, has died, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Monday.

"Robert's life was marked by his long career in public service for the residents of Chicago and Cook County," Preckwinkle said in a statement. "Robert was a lifelong Chicagoan and he cared deeply about his community of North Lawndale."

Steele served as the commissioner of the second district, which includes the West Loop, South Loop and the West Side, since 2006. Steele's mother, Bobbie, served as Cook County board president in 2006. She retired later that year, and Robert Steele was appointed to take her seat one month after she was re-elected to the board.

A close ally of Preckwinkle, Steele ran the meetings of the Cook County Board in her absence.

Commissioner John Daley praised Steele for "working diligently on behalf of the residents of Cook County."

"Throughout his tenure on the Board, Robert was a great advocate for the County's Health and Hospital System and also worked to increase awareness of the importance of organ donation as a way of helping those in need," Daley said in a statement.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said 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 a for the city’s health services," Emanuel said in a statement. "While he hailed from North Lawndale, Robert was deeply devoted to Chicago’s West and South Sides."

Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers said he was "deeply saddened" Steele's death. Summers served as Preckwinkle's chief of staff.

"Robert was a great man with a true dedication to serving the people of Chicago," Summers said in a statement. "Everything Robert pursued in his life was in a pursuit to bettering our city, our neighborhoods and our people."

The cause of Steele's death was not immediately disclosed, although he suffered from Type-2 diabetes. In 2010, he received a kidney transplant from his sister.

Steele was hospitalized in November when the Cook County Board approved a pop tax that will hike the price of a 2-liter bottle by 68 cents and a six-pack by 72 cents as of July 1. The commissioners voted 8-8, forcing Preckwinkle to break the tie.

Steele told the Tribune in May that he would have voted for the tax.

Chicago politicians marked Steele's death on Twitter.