Politics is an unpredictable career choice. But no one expected it to cost the ultimate price.
And this sudden death rattled the entire Democrat Party.
Sheila Oliver, the first black woman to serve as speaker of the state Assembly in New Jersey, died Tuesday after being hospitalized with an unexplained illness.
This week, Oliver, 71, was acting governor while Gov. Phil Murphy was on vacation in Italy.
Murphy’s office said she was admitted to Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston on Monday.
According to the state constitution, Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) acted in her stead.
“I knew then that her decades of public service made her the ideal partner for me to lead the state of New Jersey,” Murphy said in a statement.
“It was the best decision I ever made.
“She brought a unique and invaluable perspective to our public policy discourse and served as an inspiration to millions of women and girls everywhere,” he said.
“Beyond all of that, she was an incredibly genuine and kind person whose friendship and partnership will be irreplaceable.”
Murphy will return to the state on August 13.
Oliver’s family said in an emotional statement, “She was not only a distinguished public servant but also our cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero.
“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.
“Sheila Y. Oliver leaves behind a legacy of dedication, service, and inspiration. We will remember her commitment to the people of New Jersey and her tireless efforts to uplift the community.”
Oliver, a Democrat from Essex County, was elected Assembly Speaker in 2010 before losing the position to Vincent Pietro in 2013, according to Fox16.
In Murphy’s absence, she signed a number of bills, including a pilot initiative to improve the state’s juvenile justice system in four Garden State cities, according to the site.
Oliver was appointed lieutenant governor in 2018 and oversaw the state Department of Community Affairs.
She was a member of the Essex County Board of Freeholders from 1996 to 1999 before being elected to the state Assembly.
“Sheila Oliver was a trailblazer,” tweeted New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
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