[Fox News] New Jersey Lt Gov Sheila Oliver dead at 71, family says

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New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who made history as the first Black woman to serve as speaker of the state Assembly, died Tuesday, her family announced. She was 71.

Oliver served with Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy, acting in his stead when he was out of state and also administering the Department of Community Affairs, which coordinates state aid to towns and cities and supervises code enforcement.

No cause of death was given in a statement released by Oliver’s family through Murphy’s office.

“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,” the family said in a statement.

“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,” the statement reads. 

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As acting governor, Oliver signed a handful of bills, including a 2021 measure that established a pilot program to overhaul the state’s juvenile justice system in four cities and which aimed to reintegrate young people into their communities.

Murphy’s office announced July 31 that Oliver was hospitalized while filling in for Murphy, who was in Italy on a family vacation. She was admitted to Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston with an undisclosed medical condition on Monday, the governor’s office said, declining to elaborate.

A spokesperson for the governor told the Associated Press that Murphy will be “returning soon” but did not say when. He was scheduled to return Aug. 13.

In a statement, Murphy said he and his family were “incredibly saddened” by news of Oliver’s passing and asked for thoughts and prayers for her family.

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The governor called Oliver an “incredibly genuine and kind person whose friendship and partnership will be irreplaceable.” He said selecting her to serve as his running mate was “the best decision I ever made.”

Oliver, a Democrat, was born and raised in Newark and has a sociology degree from Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University. She served on the Essex County board of chosen freeholders from 1996 to 1999 before winning election to the state Assembly in 2004.

In 2010, Oliver became the first Black woman to serve as Assembly speaker but lost the position to Assemblyman Vincent Prieto in 2013. Murphy selected her to be his running mate in 2017. They won, and she became the second New Jersey lieutenant governor since the position was created under former Republican Gov. Chris Christie. The pair won re-election in 2021.

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Oliver was a talented public speaker and could often be seen accompanying Murphy at bill-signing ceremonies and other functions of his office, where he would introduce her as his “rocking” lieutenant governor.

It is unclear who will succeed her. New Jersey’s state constitution calls for the Senate president to serve as acting governor if both the governor and lieutenant governor are out of state or incapacitated, according to the Associated Press.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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