Steele, 55, had long struggled with Type 2 diabetes and in recent months was in and out of the hospital. In 2010, he received a kidney transplant from his sister. The cause of his death was not immediately available.
Steele was appointed in 2006 to take the seat of his mother, Bobbie Steele, who retired after winning re-election one month earlier.
The elder Steele had just finished the final four months of the term of the previous president, John Stroger, who resigned after having an incapacitating and ultimately fatal stroke.
After being appointed, Robert Steele went on to win election in 2010 and re-election in 2014. He was president pro tempore for Preckwinkle, meaning he ran the meetings in her absence.
“I am saddened to learn of the death today of Commissioner Robert Steele,” Preckwinkle said in a statement. “Robert’s life was marked by his long career in public service for the residents of Chicago and Cook County.”
Because of his health struggles, Steele was absent last November when Preckwinkle cast a tie-breaking vote to approve a new penny-an-ounce tax on sugar- and artificially sweetened beverages set to go into effect July 1. Opponents had made him the focus of a lobbying effort, but Steele recently told the Tribune he backed the tax. His replacement ultimately will be picked by county Democratic committeemen.
Prior to being appointed to the board, Steele was a community outreach manager with the Chicago Park District and had been involved with local nonprofit organizations and hospital boards.
At the time of his death, Steele was member of Mount Sinai Hospital board of directors, the Gift of Hope board of directors and chairman of the board of trustees of…