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Dennis Deer Named To Fill County Board Seat After Commissioner Dies

 Dennis Deer has been named a Cook County Commissioner.
Dennis Deer has been named a Cook County Commissioner.
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Flickr/Joselito Tagarao; Dennis Deer

NORTH LAWNDALE — For the first time in 31 years, the residents of Cook County's 2nd District will not be represented by a member of the Steele family.

Dennis Deer, a West Side native who owns several businesses, was tapped to replace Robert Steele, 55, who died June 19 after a long illness. Steele had served as the commissioner of the 2nd District, which includes the West Loop, South Loop and the West Side, since 2006.

Steele replaced his mother, Bobbie Steele, who represented the district from 1986 to 2006, when she become president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners after the death of John Stroger. She retired after Stroger's son, Todd, was elected to permanently replace his father.

The website for Deer Rehabilitation Services says Deer holds a doctor of Christian Psychology degree and completed the city's 10,000 Small Business training program it offers with Goldman Sachs.

Deer was "born and raised on Chicago's West Side in the midst of gangs, murders, drugs and other violence. Yet he made the cognitive choice to turn down guns, stop throwing up gang signs, and chose to start praying and looking at positive role models," according to his website.

On his Facebook page, Deer mourns Steele's death, whom he called a mentor. Steele's "accomplishments and impacts were great," Deer said.

"I will truly miss our conversations that were sometimes lighthearted and sometimes very candid. I will miss our collaboration on many issues plaguing our community," Deer said.

Thirteen people applied to fill the vacant seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners, according to a statement from the committee formed to select Steele's replacement that was led by Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th).

"We had an open and honest process which showcased some of the best of what the South and West Sides have to offer," Scott said. "I look forward, as do my colleagues, to working with the newly designated commissioner."

Among the unsuccessful applicants for the seat were Kevin Bailey, who lost a 2015 runoff against 20th Ward Ald. Willie Cochran, who is now under indictment for wire fraud, bribery and extortion.

Rehayd Kazmi, the husband of newly appointed City Clerk Anna Valencia also applied for the seat.

Initially, the spokesman for the committee said State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin, the wife of 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin, applied for the vacant seat, but later said that was not accurate.

The committee that selected Deer was made up of all the Democratic ward committeemen within the county's 2nd District, which includes parts of the city's 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 11th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 20th, 22nd, 24th, 25th, 27th, 28th, 29th and 42nd wards.

Deer won a simple majority of votes, which was be weighted according to how much of each ward is included in the 2nd District, according to the rules.

Deer will serve the year remaining in Steele's term.