New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver Dead at 71 – New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, the first black woman to hold the position of state Assembly speaker, passed away on Tuesday following hospitalization due to an undisclosed illness. At the age of 71, she was acting as governor while Gov. Phil Murphy was away in Italy.
Her admission to Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston was announced by Murphy’s office on Monday. Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) acted in her place, as per the state constitution. “I knew then that her decades of public service made her the ideal partner for me to lead the state of New Jersey,” Murphy said in a statement. “It was the best decision I ever made.”
“She brought a unique and invaluable perspective to our public policy discourse and served as an inspiration to millions of women and girls everywhere,” he said. “Beyond all of that, she was an incredibly genuine and kind person whose friendship and partnership will be irreplaceable.” Murphy is scheduled to return to the state on Aug. 13.
Oliver’s family said in an emotional statement, “She was not only a distinguished public servant but also our cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero.” “As we come to terms with this profound loss, we kindly request that you respect the privacy of the Oliver family during this difficult time as they grieve their beloved Sheila.”
“Sheila Y. Oliver leaves behind a legacy of dedication, service, and inspiration. We will remember her commitment to the people of New Jersey and her tireless efforts to uplift the community.” According to Fox16, Oliver, a Democrat representing Essex County, ascended to the position of Assembly speaker in 2010 but was later succeeded by Vincent Pietro in 2013.
During her time as acting governor while Gov. Phil Murphy was away, she signed various bills, including one for a pilot program aimed at reforming the juvenile justice system in four cities within the Garden State. In 2018, Oliver assumed the role of lieutenant governor and additionally held the position of the head of the state Department of Community Affairs.
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Prior to her tenure in the state Assembly, she served on the Essex County Board of Freeholders from 1996 to 1999. “Sheila Oliver was a trailblazer,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams tweeted. “She knocked down barriers for women of color in government, climbing the ranks to the highest levels,” the mayor wrote. “On behalf of New York City, I offer our condolences to her friends, family, and the people of New Jersey who she so dutifully served.”