Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver died today following a lengthy, undisclosed illness. She was 71.
In announcing her death, Oliver’s family said, “It is with incredible sadness and a heavy heart that we announce the passing of the Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver, Lieutenant Governor of the State of New Jersey. She was not only a distinguished public servant but also our cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero.”
Oliver was the first Black woman to serve as speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly. In 2017, then candidate Phil Murphy chose her to run for Lieutenant Governor. She was the first woman of color elected to statewide office in New Jersey.
“Sheila led the Department of Community Affairs, handling some of the most challenging issues facing our State, including the revitalization of our cities, affordable housing obligations, and homelessness prevention” wrote Governor Murphy today. As someone who was born and raised in Newark, and who has called East Orange home for more than 40 years Sheila did not view these issues in the abstract because she lived with them every day of her life.” He called her a “trailblazer.”
With Governor Phil Murphy vacationing in Italy, Senate President Nick Scutari took over as acting governor on Monday.
Congressman Rob Mendendez called her death “a devastating loss for our state, for all the communities that she served in the Assembly and later as Lieutenant Governor and Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.”
Said Scutari, “I believe she will continue to be an inspiration for generations of young people.”