New Jersey’s Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver has passed away at the age of 71.
She was hospitalized for an unknown illness, as Governor Murphy travels abroad on a family vacation in Italy. Her spokesman said in a statement Monday she was taken to Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston and was unable to carry out the duties of acting governor.
State Senate President Nick Scutari has been serving as acting governor in her stead.
“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 Oliver family said in a statement released by Gov. Phil Murphy.
“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 spent 16 years in the Assembly before being elected as Lieutenant Governor in 2017. She also served as the head of the Department of Community Affairs. In 2010, she became the first Black woman to serve as speaker of the state Assembly in the state’s history.
According to his Communications Director, Governor Murphy will be flying back from his family vacation in Italy. In his statement, the Governor said that he, his wife Tammy, and their children are “incredibly saddened and distraught,” over the sudden death of Oliver. He said selecting Oliver as his running mate in 2017 was “the best decision I ever made.” He and his family were originally scheduled to return to New Jersey on August 13th.
The Governor will have 45 days to appoint a new lieutenant governor, according to the New Jersey Constitution.