Written by Paul Milo
Sheila Oliver, the first African-American woman to serve as Speaker of the State Assembly, was honored by the County of Essex earlier this week, when a conference center at the LeRoy Smith Public Safety Building in Newark was named in her honor.
"When Sheila was chosen by her peers to serve as Assembly Speaker, she made history by becoming the first African American woman to hold that position. Throughout her career, she has held leadership positions in public service and gave a voice to the less fortunate. As our Speaker, Sheila helped guide the State through some very challenging issues and economic times," Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said.
"I have been in and out of the buildings in this government complex most of my life. My relationship with politics began when I was 18 and registered to vote. Since then I have not missed an opportunity to cast my ballot. I never thought I would run for office, but I realized that government can play an integral role in improving the human condition and help transform lives. My agenda is for the people we represent," Oliver said.
Oliver was elected to the NJ General Assembly in 2004 representing the 34th Legislative District and was elected New Jersey Assembly Speaker in 2010. She also previously served as a member of the East Orange Board of Education from 1994 to 2000, including as its Vice President from 1998 to 1999 and its president from 1999 to 2000, and as a member of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders from 1996 to 1999.
Oliver also was the Essex County Director of the Department of Citizen Services and Department of Economic Development, Training and Employment, and currently is the Assistant Essex County Administrator.
She was one of the founders of the Newark Coalition for Low Income Housing, which sued the Newark Housing Authority and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in federal court to block the demolition of publicly subsidized housing in Newark when there was no plan to replace unites for low-income families.