Phenomenal Women 2022
In celebration of Women’s History Month, NJ Urban News will tell the stories of dynamic, outstanding, and some superb women of color in New Jersey. We salute and honor some of these incredible women during a month that is ushering in a new era for women—particularly women of color. Below are highlights of a past interview with Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver.
Sheila Oliver: The Most Powerful Woman in New Jersey
By Glenn Townes
As the first African American Lt. Governor of New Jersey, Sheila Oliver is one tough lady and rarely backs down from a spirited discussion about politics, business, or education with her constituents or anyone else for that matter. Oliver, 71, has been Lt. Governor for four years—under the administration of Governor Phil Murphy. In November, Murphy was re-elected to a second term and narrowly defeated Republican Jack Ciattarelli in a contentious and acrimonious election. Oliver has been a community activist and political pundit of sorts for more than 25 years—stretching back to her days as a member of the East Orange Board of Education in 1994. She made history again in 2010 when she became just the second woman to become the Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly.
Oliver is a frequent critic of the previous administration of Chris Christie and Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno. In an interview with a reporter, she said, “They chose to focus more on giving big tax breaks to multimillion dollar corporations then serving the needs of working class people of New Jersey.” She added that inclusion and diversity were near non-existent in the previous administration across all sectors—geographically, culturally, or ethnically. “That will stop under the leadership of Phil Murphy,” she said. And it has.
For example, under the direction of the two, campaign promises of a series of initiatives have been implemented. They include increasing the state’s minimum wage, expanding LGBTQ rights, legalizing marijuana, and making New Jersey a sanctuary state. However, one area where critics of the Murphy/Oliver administration fall short is business and entrepreneurship. Most notably, plans for a state-run and taxpayer-funded bank focusing on steady and secured funding for minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs) remains stalled. And a Murphy/Oliver mandate last year that required all Project Labor Agreements on all public construction projects that exceed $5 million was slammed by influential and consequential state allies, including the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ). The organization called the move “ill conceived” and “only benefitting politically connected union firms.”
At any rate, Oliver continues to stand tall and tower over the state as a woman of power and strength. “We will continue to make New Jersey the state where the road back from the politics of Trump begins,” she said.