United Methodist Communities Mourns the Passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver
United Methodist Communities joins the rest of New Jersey in mourning the sudden passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver.
Born and raised in Newark and a 40+ year resident of East Orange, Lt. Governor Oliver’s roots and impact run deep in Essex County. As a dedicated public servant, she served on the East Orange Board of Education, Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and the 34th Legislative District of the New Jersey General Assembly. In 2010, Oliver made history, becoming the first African American woman to serve as NJ Speaker of the Assembly and the second to lead a US state legislative house. Governor Phil Murphy selected Oliver as his running mate in 2017 and 2021, making her the first African American woman to serve as lieutenant governor of New Jersey. In his statement on Lt. Governor Oliver’s passing, Governor Murphy referred to her selection as the best decision he ever made.
UMC fondly remembers Lt. Governor Oliver as a compassionate, dynamic woman with a deep commitment to community service and improving the lives of New Jerseyans. Her work with social services, affordable housing policy, and tenure as Commissioner of the New Jersey Dept. of Community Affairs made her an invaluable ally to UMC’s affordable senior housing program. Lt. Governor Oliver had a soft spot for UMC’s East Orange location, United Methodist Communities at Bishop Taylor, and developed a friendship with Housing Administrator, Tanya Sweet-Preston. The two met in 2000 and bonded over their shared commitment to protecting seniors, advancing equality, and empowering women. Our residents and teammates at UMC at Bishop Taylor will miss Oliver’s frequent visits and send comforting thoughts and prayers to her family, friends, and colleagues.
UMC’s nine senior living communities will fly flags at half-staff until September 4, 2023, in remembrance and recognition of Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver’s legacy.
A Personal Reflection from Tanya Sweet-Preston, Housing Administrator of United Methodist Communities at Bishop Taylor
Sheila Oliver was my dear friend and a pillar of the community. I met Sheila in 2000, and we instantly bonded with each other. She began working with UMC at Bishop Taylor by attending many of our health fairs, socials, and campaign events. She was passionate about seniors and those that were vulnerable. Her mother was 92 years of age, and she was adamant about protecting seniors and not letting them be discarded. Sheila cared about helping people and bettering the lives of those in need. She mentored so many in the community with her wisdom, compassion, intelligence, and fierce dedication to diversity and equality.
If you needed her, Sheila was a person who always said yes; I don’t think the word no was in her vocabulary. I want people to know that the one thing that bonded the relationship between Sheila and me is that she always said women can do anything they set their minds to.
She believed in empowering women. She always said if she wasn’t appointed to be the President of the Board of Education in East Orange or chosen to serve as Lieutenant Governor, she would have been a Fashion designer.
She was an inspiration to all by making a positive difference in the world.
– Tanya Sweet-Preston