Kari. K. Steele elected President of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

On Thursday, January 10, 2019, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) made history when its nine-member board unanimously elected Commissioner Kari K. Steele as the first African- American woman to lead the $1.1 billion agency. President Steele brings to the Board her unique qualifications as a chemist, environmentalist, and a former employee of the District.

As the newly elected President, she will lead one of the largest wastewater management agencies in the world, overseeing sanitary and flood protection for more than 5 million residents in Cook County.

“I am honored my colleagues would elect me to lead one of the most important agencies in Cook County,” said Steele. “As a chemist, I understand how important the proper treatment of wastewater is to public health. As an environmentalist, I will continue making the protection of our most precious natural resource – Lake Michigan – a top priority. And as a leader, I will emphasize the use of green infrastructure as a cornerstone for building the Cook County of the future.”

First elected to the Board in 2012, President Steele started at the MWRD as a 19 year old intern water sampler. “I never imagined that I would become President of the Board of Commissioners, so I hope to inspire little girls of color with chemistry sets and an abundance curiosity to pursue STEM based education and careers,” Steele continues. “I also recognize the historic nature of my election as the first Black woman to lead the District, particularly at a time when access to clean water has leaped to the forefront of the national and local debate. Access to clean water is not only as a health issue, but an environmental justice issue as well. Both make my role at MWRD even more important.”

 Joining Steele on the Executive Board are Vice-President Barbara McGowan and Chairman of Finance Frank Avila, both who were re-elected unanimously.

The mission of the District is to protect the health and safety of the public in its service area, protect the quality of the water supply source (Lake Michigan), improve the quality of water in watercourses in its service area, protect businesses and homes from flood damages, and manage water as a vital resource for its service area.

For more information about MWRD Board President Kari K. Steele or Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago visit or call 312-751-5695.