Born to the late Charles Oliver and Jennie Oliver, Sheila Y. Oliver served as New Jersey’s 2nd Lieutenant Governor from January 16, 2018, until her passing on August 1, 2023.
A self-described “Jersey Girl,” born and raised in an ethnically diverse Newark neighborhood Lieutenant Governor Oliver was inspired as a young girl to be a fighter for the voiceless when her eyes were opened to societal injustices and inequities around her, often citing “A Tale of Two Cities” as her youth awakening. She pioneered a successful career in public service advocating for social justice, women’s equality, and education, ultimately in 2017 becoming the first woman of color to serve in a statewide elected office in New Jersey history. In 2021, Lt. Governor Oliver was reelected to serve a second term in office.
In addition to her role as Lieutenant Governor, she 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 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 her 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, Lieutenant Governor Oliver worked in the public, non-profit, and private sectors, and has taught numerous college courses. She has 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.
A trailblazer in every sense of the word, 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.
A proud alumna of the Newark public school system, Lieutenant Governor 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, Stockton University and Berkeley and Essex County Colleges.
She was a proud 40-plus-year resident of East Orange where she treasured her time with her 95-year-old mother, who always encouraged her to be a critical thinker while fostering her passion for helping people through effective public policy.