Sheila Oliver, the second-term lieutenant governor of New Jersey, passed yesterday at the age of 71. Together with Murphy, she has been re-elected in 2021.
Oliver, who was in charge of the Department of Community Affairs, made a substantial contribution to the growth of affordable housing and neighborhood services.
A Distinguished Political Journey
Sheila Oliver had a distinguished political career prior to being elected as the Lieutenant Governor.
In 2010, she held office in the state General Assembly and became New Jersey’s first Black woman to serve as Assembly speaker.
Her legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of the people of New Jersey as one of commitment, service, and inspiration.
A Fond Farewell from Gov. Murphy
Governor Phil Murphy shared his profound sorrow at Sheila Oliver’s departure on social media, referring to her as a “dear friend, colleague, and partner in government.”
She passed away for an undisclosed reason, but it was known that she had been dealing with ongoing health problems that she had decided to keep quiet.
She had only gone to a few public gatherings in recent months. Because of this, she was unable to carry out her responsibilities as Acting Governor, and Senate President Nick Scutari filled in for her while Governor Murphy was on vacation in Italy.
A Fond Farewell from Gov. Murphy
In addition to serving as the lieutenant governor, Oliver oversaw the Department of Community Affairs, a significant governmental organization in charge of community and housing development. She lived in East Orange and had an impact on the entire state of New Jersey.
Roots in Newark
Sheila Oliver’s adventure began in Newark, where her parents, who both worked for illustrious local organizations, gave birth to her.
She was raised in a political and civically active environment. Her outlook was influenced by her father’s efforts against racial discrimination as well as her close contact to important people like U.S. Representative Donald Payne.
A historically Black university in Pennsylvania, Lincoln University is where Sheila Oliver obtained her bachelor’s degree.
Her master’s degree in planning and administration was later earned from Columbia University. The groundwork for her future political aspirations was built by her scholarly accomplishments.
The Rise to Power
When Sheila Oliver joined the East Orange School Board in the 1990s, her political career really took off.
She later changed careers, serving as an assistant county administrator in Essex County before becoming a freeholder in that county.
She joined the Assembly in 2004 and eventually rose to the position of speaker in 2010, working on key changes alongside former governor Chris Christie and former Senate president Steve Sweeney.
Challenges and Achievements
The passage of Chapter 78, a bill aimed at reforming the pension and healthcare systems for public employees, was a significant victory.
She was essential to its execution, though Sheila Oliver later revealed conflicting emotions about it.
The Ups and Downs of Power
A regional power-sharing agreement led to Sheila Oliver’s rise to the position of Assembly speaker, but it wasn’t without difficulties.
She subsequently lost the speakership due to disagreements with Senator Sweeney and Governor Christie.
Nevertheless, she remained to serve the public as Governor Murphy’s Lieutenant Governor and Commissioner of Community Affairs.
A Trailblazer and Icon
Sheila Oliver had a significant influence despite the ups and downs in the political climate. She rose to become the second Black woman to head a legislative chamber in the history of the United States and the second lieutenant governor of New Jersey.
Her participation in politics provided Black women and girls throughout the state with an excellent role model.
A Legacy Remembered
New Jersey laments the loss of a renowned public worker and a cherished character with her departure.
Governor Murphy has 45 days to name her replacement as Lieutenant Governor, and arrangements for her memorial ceremony have yet to be made.
A Final Farewell
Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver’s family issued a touching message in which they expressed their deep sorrow and asked for privacy during this trying time.
They remembered her unshakable dedication to the people of New Jersey and her attempts to improve the neighborhood as they honored her legacy of commitment, service, and inspiration. All who knew her will find solace and courage in their memories of her.