sheila oliver

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver Passes Away at Age 71

New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver has passed away according to a statement from her family.

Oliver, 71, was hospitalized on Monday due to an undisclosed medical issue.

With Gov. Phil Murphy on vacation in Italy until Aug. 13, Senate President Nicholas Scutari remains acting governor, after having taken over the position upon Oliver’s initial hospitalization this week.

“Tammy and I, and our children, are incredibly saddened and distraught to learn of the passing of our dear friend, colleague, and partner in government, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver,” Murphy said in a statement today. “She was an incredibly genuine and kind person whose friendship and partnership will be irreplaceable. We ask that you all keep the Oliver family and all those who knew and loved her in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Oliver became the first woman of color to serve in a statewide elected office in New Jersey history when Murphy appointed her Lt. Governor in 2017.

“Sheila 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. May her memory be a source of comfort and strength to all who knew her,” the Oliver family said in a statement.

NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka, called it a very sad day for the State of New Jersey.

“Lieutenant Governor Oliver was long established as a trailblazer in Trenton before representing Governor Murphy,” Siekerka said in a statement. “Her dedication to underserved communities throughout her years of public service made a clear and lasting impact.

“Beyond being a loyal public servant to the state, especially in her leadership role with the Department of Community Affairs, Lt. Gov. Oliver was also a strong and inspirational advocate for women business owners over the years,” Siekerka said. “We were always appreciative of her working with NJBIA in our collective pursuit of advancing women’s leadership in our great state. NJBIA offers our heartfelt condolences to her family, friends and the Murphy administration.”

In addition to her role as lieutenant governor, Oliver served as commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, where she led efforts to strengthen and expand initiatives for fair and affordable housing, community revitalization, homelessness prevention, and local government services that support New Jersey’s 564 municipalities.

Under her leadership, the department has also expanded and leveraged a wide range of initiatives aimed at assisting distressed municipalities, including the federal Opportunity Zones tax incentive, the Main Street New Jersey program, the Neighborhood Preservation Program, the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit program, and the Urban Enterprise Zone Program, which was renewed by legislation she signed in 2021.

In Oliver’s role as acting governor, she signed multiple bills into law, including those that established a Caregiver Task Force to identify ways to support people taking care of loved ones who are elderly or disabled, require all public school students in grades 6-8 to receive financial literacy education, strengthen equal pay for equal work by preventing employers from asking employees’ previous salary history, and protect employees from wage theft. She also signed into law legislation that established a Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youths and Communities Pilot Program within the Juvenile Justice Commission to help divert youth from entering and re-entering the juvenile justice system.

Across her career, Oliver worked in the public, non-profit, and private sectors, and taught numerous college courses. She served as a member of both the East Orange Board of Education and the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

In 2003, she was elected to serve the 34th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly.

In 2010 she became the first African-American woman in state history to serve as Assembly Speaker, and just the second in the nation’s history to lead a state legislative house.

Oliver graduated cum laude from Lincoln University, and received her Master of Science Degree in Community Organization, Planning and Administration from Columbia University. She has received honorary doctorates of humane letters from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Lincoln University, Montclair University and Berkeley College and Essex County Colleges.

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