Kari K. Steele Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

Kari K. Steele was elected November 6, 2012, to her first term as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) and re-elected in 2018 for a second term. In January 2019, she became the first African American woman in the more than 130-year history of the MWRD to be elected by the Board of Commissioners to serve as President. She is currently serving her third term as President of the Board of Commissioners.

President Steele serves as Chairman for the Affirmative Action and Maintenance & Operations committees. She is Vice Chairman of the Federal Legislation; Pension, Human Resources & Civil Service; and Industrial Waste & Water Pollution committees. She also currently serves as a board member on the Public Building Commission of Chicago and trustee of the MWRD Retirement Fund.

President Steele is a chemist, environmentalist, licensed real estate broker, and a community leader. She has more than 11 years of experience working as a chemist. She started her career at MWRD as a water sampler and lab technician intern. She has also worked as a water chemist for the City of Chicago Department of Water Management’s Jardine Water Purification Plant.

President Steele is uniquely qualified to discuss and analyze proposed operational changes and operational efficiencies. She is the first and only chemist serving on the MWRD Board of Commissioners. President Steele is featured in Crain’s Chicago Business 2023 Notable Women in STEM edition.

President Steele is often acknowledged for her vast public service. She is the recipient of the following awards and recognitions: the Richard Barnett Legacy Award (2007); City of Dixmoor’s Humanitarian Award (2012); Outstanding Woman Elected Official (2014); Brookfield Zoo’s Outstanding Community Partner (2015); Hometown Hero Award (2017); UIC Freshwater Lab Water Award (2017); Outstanding Public Official of the Year (2019); Congressional History Makers (2019); Trailblazers Award (2019); Black History Champion Award (2019) Women Making History (2019); Ida Platt Award (2019); Crescent Moon Award (2019); National Civil Rights Hall of Fame Inductee (2020); NWEA Public Official Award (2022); Phenomenal Woman Award (2022); and the Rich Township & Village of Matteson’s History Makers Award (2023).

She is a member of State Treasurer Michael Frerichs’ African American Advisory Committee; 8th Ward Women’s Auxiliary Council; Sierra Club; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc; 27th Ward Regular Democratic Organization; Independent Voters of Illinois – Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO); Southside Democracy for America; and West Side Black Elected Officials. President Steele also serves on the Polished Pebbles Reflections Foundation Board of Directors.

President Steele is the past president of 6th Ward Young Democrats; past Chairman and Treasurer of the Young Democrats of Cook County; and past member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists.

President Kari K. Steele earned a Pre-Medicine Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana. She completed the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership Training Academy (2007); the University of Illinois Institute for Government and Politics Edgar Fellows Program (2014); and the Metropolitan Leadership Institute (2016).

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