Sheila Oliver

Sheila Y. Oliver (born July 14, 1952) is an American politician serving as the Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey since 2018. She previously served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 2004 to 2018, where she represented the 34th legislative district while also serving as the Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly for two terms, from January 12, 2010, to January 14, 2014, as a member of the Democratic Party.

Sheila Oliver
Lt Gov Sheila Oliver.jpeg
2nd Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey
Assumed office
January 16, 2018
GovernorPhil Murphy
Preceded byKim Guadagno
Commissioner of the
New Jersey Department of Community Affairs
Assumed office
January 16, 2018
GovernorPhil Murphy
Preceded byCharles Richman
169th Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly
In office
January 12, 2010 – January 14, 2014
Preceded byJoseph J. Roberts
Succeeded byVincent Prieto
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 34th district
In office
January 13, 2004 – January 9, 2018
Preceded byWillis Edwards
Succeeded byBritnee Timberlake
Personal details
Born (1952-07-14) July 14, 1952 (age 68)
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationLincoln University,
Columbia University (MS)
WebsiteGovernment website

In July 2017, Phil Murphy, the Democratic Party nominee for governor, selected Oliver as his running mate for Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey in the November 2017 election. The Murphy/Oliver ticket won the general election. Oliver was sworn in as Lieutenant Governor on January 16, 2018.

Early lifeEdit

Oliver was born and raised in Newark, where she graduated from Weequahic High School in 1970.[1] Oliver graduated cum laude with a B.A. from Lincoln University in 1974 in Sociology and was awarded an M.S. from Columbia University in Planning and Administration in 1976.[2][3] On May 6, 2018 Oliver, received her Doctor of Humane Letters from her alma mater Lincoln University of Pennsylvania.


She served on the Board of Education of the East Orange School District from 1994 to 2000, and was chosen by her peers to serve as its Vice President from 1998 to 1999 and President from 1999 to 2000. She served on the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders from district 3 for one term from 1996 to 1999, but was defeated for a second term on the board in the June 1999 Democratic primary election.[2][4] In 1997, she became the first woman to launch a competitive campaign for mayor in the City of East Orange, losing the election by a mere 51 votes to Robert L. Bowser.[3]

Oliver was one of the founders of the Newark Coalition for Low Income Housing, an organization that successfully sued the Newark Housing Authority and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in federal court to block the demolition of all publicly subsidized low income housing in Newark, as there was no plan in place for the construction of replacement housing for low-income Newark residents. As a result, the Newark Housing Authority was directed by a federal consent order to build one-for-one replacement housing for low-income residents.[citation needed]

Member of the New Jersey State Assembly, 2004–2018Edit

As a part of intra-party deal making in 2003, Oliver was chosen alongside incumbent Assemblyman Peter C. Eagler to be the party-backed candidates in the June 2003 primary election for General Assembly from the 34th District. Incumbent Assemblyman Willis Edwards was dropped from the ticket as a result.[5] Until she ran for lieutenant governor, she had been re-elected six times to two-year terms in every cycle after her initial election in 2003.

On November 23, 2009, Oliver was elected unanimously by Assembly Democrats to become the 169th Speaker of the Assembly.[6] Her election made her the second woman to serve as Speaker in New Jersey history, the first being Marion West Higgins, who served in 1965, and the second African American to hold this post, the first being S. Howard Woodson, who first held the post in 1974.[7] Nationwide, she became the second African American woman to lead a state legislature after Karen Bass of California.[3]

As Speaker, Oliver backed Governor Chris Christie's reforms to public workers' pensions and benefits. Police and Fire unions were furious with the Speaker, claiming that she told them the issue was still under consideration before announcing the bill would be introduced later that same day.[8] Then-Assemblyman Joseph Cryan was unsuccessful in his efforts to convince his fellow Democrats to stage a coup against reappointing Oliver as Speaker.[9] Oliver was elected in 2011 for a second term as Speaker under the terms of a deal in which she agreed to move legislation forward only with the advance support of 41 of the Democrats in the Assembly.[10]

On June 10, 2013, she formally announced that she would run in the special election for the senate seat held by Frank Lautenberg.[11] She did not win any county endorsements in the special primary held on August 13 and came in last of four candidates winning only four percent of the vote.[12]

Oliver served in the Assembly on the Commerce and Economic Development Committee, the Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, the Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity, and the Joint Committee on the Public Schools.[2] Oliver remained speaker for the 2012–2013 session through a deal made with Senator Nicholas Sacco, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., and South Jersey political boss George Norcross.[13] Two years later, most Assembly Democrats backed Vincent Prieto for Speaker in the next session.[14] In the 2014-15 Assembly term, Oliver was designated Speaker Emeritus.[2]

Outside of the Legislature, Oliver works as an assistant administrator for Essex County. She is a resident of East Orange.[15]

District 34Edit

Each of the forty districts in the New Jersey Legislature has one member in the New Jersey Senate and two members in the New Jersey General Assembly. The other representatives from the 34th District for the 2016-2017 Legislative Session are:

Lieutenant GovernorEdit

In July 2017, New Jersey Advanced Media reported Phil Murphy would select Oliver as the Democratic Party candidate for lieutenant governor of New Jersey.[16] Murphy and Oliver defeated the Republican ticket of Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Mayor Carlos Rendo of Woodcliff Lake.[17] She became the fourth African American woman to become a lieutenant governor in America, and the first of which to be a Democrat. Murphy announced he would appoint Oliver to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, a cabinet appointment,[18] made under a provision of the New Jersey Constitution that allows the governor to appoint his lieutenant governor to a cabinet post without requiring the approval of the New Jersey Senate.[19]

New Jersey law allows for someone to run for two elective offices simultaneously, but they cannot serve in both offices simultaneously and must pick their desired seat. Oliver, in addition to being elected Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, also won re-election to her legislative seat in the General Assembly. Oliver had to resign her legislative seat by noon on January 16, 2018, the date she and Murphy were sworn in. When Carlos Rendo, during their one televised debate, challenged her decision to run for both seats, Oliver said that she had filed to run for re-election before she was chosen by Murphy as his running mate and would resign from her Assembly seat if she and Murphy were elected.[20] After Oliver resigned her Assembly seat, she was replaced by Britnee Timberlake, who had served as the Freeholder President of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and was sworn into office on January 29, 2018.[21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Some Distinguished Weequahic Alumni" (PDF). May 13, 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 25, 2015. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Assemblywoman Oliver's legislative web page, New Jersey Legislature. Accessed September 24, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "New Jersey Apportionment Committee - Commission Membership". Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  4. ^ "Only 473 Vote In Tuesday Primary Election" (PDF). West Essex Tribune. June 10, 1999. p. A-8. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  5. ^ Edge, Wally (January 12, 2010). "How Oliver and Cryan got to Trenton". Politicker NJ. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  6. ^ Megerian, Chris. "Assembly Democrats unanimously back Sheila Oliver as next speaker". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  7. ^ Hester, Tom, Sr. "Steve Sweeney elected N.J. Senate president; Sheila Oliver named Assembly speaker" Archived 2012-03-11 at the Wayback Machine,, November 23, 2009. Accessed June 11, 2011. "Oliver will become the first African-American woman and the second woman to serve as Assembly speaker. She will be the second African-American and the second woman to hold the post.... Oliver will be the first woman speaker since Marion West Higgins (R-Bergen) in 1965. She will be the first African-American speaker since the Rev. S. Howard Woodson (D-Mercer) in 1974 and 1975."
  8. ^ Renshaw, Jarrett. "N.J. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver testifies in favor of insurance, pension overhaul", The Star-Ledger, June 20, 2011. Accessed February 3, 2018. "Police and fire unions were angered last week when Assembly leaders announced today's hearing while negotiations were still underway.Bill Lavin, president of the state Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, said union leaders met with Oliver's office on Tuesday afternoon and were told the issue was still under discussion.Hours later, Oliver and Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) announced they would introduce the bill today."
  9. ^ Brodesser-Akner, Claude. "9 things to know about Phil Murphy's new running mate, Sheila Oliver", NJ Advance Media for, July 29, 2017. Accessed February 3, 2018. "Backing the 2011 vote on cuts to public worker benefits made her deeply unpopular with many Assembly Democrats, including then Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D-Union), who was rumored to have urged other Democrats to oust her in a coup. The coup never materialized, and Oliver was narrowly reelected to a second term as speaker."
  10. ^ Della Santi, Angela via Associated Press. "NJ Assembly Speaker's role up in the air going forward", The Trentonian, December 11, 2011. Accessed February 3, 2018. " Sheila Oliver's first term as Assembly speaker was chaotic, culminating in a coup attempt staved off in a backroom deal that retained her as leader of New Jersey's lower house.... To get the votes she needed for a second two-year term as speaker, Oliver is said to have agreed to a demand from 13 dissenters within her party, who want to keep her from posting legislation for a vote unless it has support from 41 Democrats, a majority of the 80-member Assembly."
  11. ^ Zernike, Kate (June 11, 2013). "New Jersey Assembly Speaker Enters Senate Race". The New York Times. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  12. ^ "Official List Candidates for US Senate For Special Primary Election For US Senate 08/13/2013" (PDF). Secretary of State of New Jersey. August 22, 2013. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  13. ^ Friedman, Matt (January 5, 2014). "New N.J. Assembly speaker, a former bodybuilder, promises to flex political muscle". NJ Advance Media for Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  14. ^ Aron, Michael (October 22, 2013). "Assembly Dems Likely to Choose Prieto to Replace Oliver as Speaker". NJTV. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  15. ^ "Assemblywoman Shelia Y. Oliver Bio Page". NJ Assembly Majority Office. Archived from the original on 2015-09-25. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  16. ^ Brodesser-Ackner, Claude (July 25, 2017). "Here's Phil Murphy's pick for a running mate in gov race". Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  17. ^ Friedman, Matt (November 7, 2017). "Murphy defeats Guadagno to become New Jersey's next governor". Politico PRO. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  18. ^ Marcus, Samantha (November 9, 2017). "Murphy makes first cabinet appointment as governor-elect". Retrieved November 9, 2017.
  19. ^ via Associated Press. "Murphy’s lieutenant governor will lead Community Affairs", Seattle Times, November 9, 2017. Accessed November 15, 2017. "Murphy's transition office said Thursday that Lt. Gov.-elect Sheila Oliver will take the helm of the Department of Community Affairs..... The constitution allows the governor to appoint his top deputy to lead a Cabinet post without the advice and consent of the Senate, as is required for other positions."
  20. ^ Racioppi, Dustin. "New Jersey elections: Five highlights from the lieutenant governor debate", Journal Sentinel, October 16, 2017. Accessed November 15, 2017. "Rendo questioned whether Oliver wants to be lieutenant governor at all, since she is also on the ballot for another term in the Assembly. Oliver said she petitioned to be on the Assembly ballot before Murphy chose her as a running mate and she "of course" would resign from the Legislature if she and Murphy are elected. She would be constitutionally prohibited from serving in both posts."
  21. ^ Johnson, Brent. "Meet Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver's replacement in the N.J. Assembly", NJ Advance Media for, January 29, 2018. Accessed January 29, 2018. "Britnee Timberlake, previously New Jersey's only black female county freeholder director, is now the newest member of the state Assembly.... Timberlake, an East Orange resident, now faces a special election in November for the remainder of Oliver's two-year term."

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

New Jersey General Assembly
Preceded by
Willis Edwards
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 34th district

Served alongside: Peter C. Eagler, Thomas P. Giblin
Succeeded by
Britnee Timberlake
Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Roberts
Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly
Succeeded by
Vincent Prieto
Preceded by
Kim Guadagno
Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey