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Sheila Oliver, the first Black woman to hold the position of state Assembly speaker in New Jersey, passed away at age 71

By 08/01/2023 9:44 PMNo CommentsBy YidInfo Staff


Sheila Oliver, the lieutenant governor of New Jersey and the first Black woman to preside over the state Assembly, passed away on Tuesday.

She was 71 years old. In addition to filling in for Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy when he was away from the state, Oliver oversaw the Department of Community Affairs, which organizes state aid to towns and cities and is in charge of code enforcement.

Murphy’s office stated in a statement from the Oliver family that no cause of death was revealed. Murphy claimed that the news had devastated him and his family. He claimed that choosing Oliver as his lieutenant governor was “the best decision I’ve ever made.”

A 2021 bill that launched a pilot initiative to restructure the state’s juvenile justice system in four cities and sought to reintegrate young people into their communities was one of the laws she signed as acting governor.

On July 31, Murphy’s office disclosed that Oliver had been admitted to the hospital while covering for Murphy, who was on a family vacation in Italy. The governor’s office stated without going into further detail that she was admitted to Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston with an unspecified medical issue.

Mahen Gunaratna, a spokesman for Murphy, said the governor would be “returning soon,” but he did not say when. He was expected back on August 13th.

Oliver became the first Black woman to hold the office of Assembly speaker in 2010, but she was ousted by Assemblyman Vincent Prieto in 2013. She has been a member of the Assembly since 2004 and sat on the board of elected freeholders for Essex County from 1996 to 1999.

She was raised in Newark and graduated from Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University with a degree in sociology.

Murphy frequently invited Oliver to his bill signings and other events, where he introduced her as his “rocking” lieutenant governor. Oliver was an engaging public speaker.

Oliver’s voice broke in 2021 as she announced stricter gun laws alongside Murphy and decried the gun violence that disproportionately afflicted the state’s cities. Oliver expressed her regret for what she called the “runaway gun violence” in her hometown of Newark.

Oliver declared, “We are sick of funerals and memorials. “I tell young people that I could visit any area of this city by myself or with my pals because I grew up in Newark.

Today’s youth are unable to accomplish that. Together with Murphy, she was elected lieutenant governor twice, first in 2017 and then again in 2021. The position of lieutenant governor, a more recent addition to the state government that was created under former governor Chris Christie, has only been held by Oliver twice.

Who will quickly succeed her is a mystery. In the event that the governor and lieutenant governor are unavailable or unable to serve, the state constitution mandates that the state Senate president take over as acting governor. According to the Constitution, Murphy has 45 days to name Oliver’s replacement.


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