b. March 29, 1954
Cook County, 5th District Commissioner (1994-)
Chicago native Deborah Sims is one of the Cook County Board’s longest serving members, first winning election to represent Chicago’s far South Side and South Suburbs in December, 1994. Sims attended CPS schools as well as Olive Harvey and Harold Washington City Colleges. Prior to her time on the Cook County Board, she held positions with the City of Chicago Department of Human Services as a youth intervention worker and youth service coordinator.
As a 34th Ward Democratic Party precinct captain, Sims is closely tied to her Ward Committeeman and Alderman, Carrie Austin. That connection would prove troublesome early in Sims' career at the County Board. Austin’s then-husband, Bobby Jackson, worked for Sims’ 1994 campaign, and was immediately hired as her chief of staff, where he stayed for two years, according to the Chicago Tribune. Sims later helped Jackson and another campaign worker, Bonita Wright, land other jobs within the county at the Juvenile Detention Center and with the Sheriff’s Department.
Both Wright and Jackson later admitted their role in an embezzlement scandal at the Village of Dixmoor Park District and were sentenced to jail time in 1997 (the Park District was eventually put into receivership by a judge, after it was found hundreds of thousands in taxpayer money, computers, and cars were unaccounted for. It was ultimately dissolved.). Sims had received a $750 illegal contribution from the Dixmoor Park District, which she said she would return, and told the Chicago Tribune she knew nothing about the operations of the district. Austin, who was rarely mentioned in connection with the investigation and eventual dismantling of the Park District's administration, said at the time that she was shocked and didn’t believe any of the allegations about Jackson.
Sims has kept a mostly low profile in office and frequently asks for more study and consideration before measures are adopted. Considered loyal to former Board President Todd Stroger, Sims has also proven loyal to Toni Preckwinkle, though when Preckwinkle challenged Stroger in 2010, Preckwinkle supported Sims’ opponent, Sheila Chalmers-Currin.
She has taken her share of controversial and unpopular votes:
- Voted against commissioners taking five unpaid furlough days and five government shutdown days to help balance the 2013 budget
- Voted against ending full-time pay and benefits for political appointees to the county Zoning Board of Appeals and the Employee Appeals Board
- Voted to keep President Stroger’s 1% sales tax hike in place in 2009. The Board of Commissioners voted to repeal the tax, Stroger vetoed, and Sims was the deciding vote not to overturn. (She later received threatening voicemails for her vote to keep the sales tax in place.) She also voted in favor of reinstating the 1% sales tax hike under President Preckwinkle.
Sims is a member of Salem Baptist Church in Chicago and a past President Of the National Association of Black County Officials.
- City Colleges, Olive Harvey, Harold Washington
Important Political Events
- 1994, Election to Cook County Board, defeating Robert Donaldson
- 2006, Defeated Dian Powell in Democratic primary