By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD – Winnebago State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross will not seek election after her appointed term expires next December, she announced Thursday.
“When I was sworn in as State’s Attorney, I indicated my goal was to continue the mission of the office that began with my predecessor ten years ago,” Hite Ross said in a statement. “In December of 2020 that mission will be completed and my tenure as Winnebago County State’s Attorney will come to an end. I thank God for blessing me with the phenomenal opportunity to make a difference and have a positive impact on those who live and work in the Winnebago County community.”
Hite Ross, the first African American and women to serve as state’s attorney, called her opportunity to succeed Joe Bruscato a privilege, blessing and honor. She was named state’s attorney Nov. 19, 2018, after significant drama involving Winnebago County Board Chairman, who over county Democrats’ recommendation of Hite Ross, nominated retired Judge Rosemary Collins for the seat. The board later defeated Haney’s recommendation, prompting the chairman to nominate Hite Ross, who was approved by a 17-3 vote.
Before her appointment as state’s attorney, she was the chief of Bruscato’s criminal bureau. Since 2008, she she’s worked closely with law enforcement to create the Winnebago-Boone Integrity Task Force. She also formed the Special Prosecution Division, which includes the Public Integrity Unit; Cold Case Unit; Elder Abuse Unit; Child Advocacy Protection and Sex Crimes Unit; Domestic Violence Unit and the Gang Unit.
“These specialized units have enhanced our ability to get justice for victims and increased our efficiency and success in prosecuting these cases,” Hite Ross said. “Over the years, I have conducted multiple continuing legal education courses by providing training throughout the year tor prosecutors and law enforcement officers in the Northern Illinois region.”
In 2016, Hite Ross was selected as a special assistant to Kane County State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon in the prosecution of Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer convicted of second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Echoing her acceptance speech, Hite Ross thanked Bruscato, who’s now a 17th Judicial Circuit judge, for selecting her to serve as the highest-appointed position in his administration.
“I am eternally grateful for his support, the support of the county board during the selection process, and the support of community members and leaders of the Rockford Ministers’ Fellowship,” she said. “Whoever my successor may be, I know that they will inherit an office of integrity and professionalism with dedicated public servants. It is my prayer that my successor maintains the integrity, professionalism, and commitment to justice that has been my priority during my tenure in the office. I have and will continue to execute my duties without partiality or favoritism to ensure that those who seek justice receive nothing less. It is a duty and commitment that the Citizens of Winnebago County deserve.”
A former Cook County prosecutor and law professor, Hite Ross was honored in 2012 by Attorney General Lisa Madigan as one of Illinois’ Distinguished Women. She is the second top county official this year to forgo a bid to continue in their position. Haney, whose first term expires in 2020, announced in April that he will not run again.