Newark conference center rededicated in honor of Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver

March 28, 2018


A conference room in Newark's LeRoy F. Smith, Jr. Public Safety Building has been rededicated as the "Sheila Y. Oliver Conference Center," after New Jersey's Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver.


Newark, NJ--A conference room in Newark's LeRoy F. Smith, Jr. Public Safety Building has been rededicated as the "Sheila Y. Oliver Conference Center," in honor and in recognition of the public service contributions and accomplishments of New Jersey's first African American Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver.

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. officially renamed the 14th-floor conference center on Tuesday, which was previously named for Oliver in 2013 to recognize her for being the second woman to serve as Assembly Speaker in New Jersey history.

"Sheila Oliver has had a long career in public service, been a strong advocate for her constituents and a role model for other women and children, and raised awareness about a variety of social issues and injustices," DiVincenzo said. "She has also been a trailblazer and pioneer, including becoming the first African-American Lt. Governor of New Jersey. It is important to recognize and celebrate people such as Sheila because they break barriers, inspire us and show what can be accomplished with hard work and determination."

"This day is more significant to me than the day I was sworn in as Lt. Governor because I know everyone sitting in every row and in every chair," Oliver said. "I have had participation with every person in this room. This is an overwhelming honor and I thank our County Executive. It's great to see all these faces before me."

Oliver, who was born and raised in Newark, was elected with Gov. Phil Murphy in November 2017 and has a long and varied public service career.

Oliver was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 2004 representing the 34th Legislative District and served until 2017. While in the Assembly, she was the first African American woman to be named as Assembly Speaker.

Oliver served as the Essex County Director of the Department of Citizen Services and Department of Economic Development, Training and Employment, the Assistant Essex County Administrator, a member of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the president, vice president and member of the East Orange Board of Education.

Oliver 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 units for low-income families.

Oliver campaigned to fill the remainder of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg's term after his death in June 2013. As the only female in the special election, Oliver used her statewide platform to raise awareness and start a conversation surrounding important issues affecting New Jersey residents.

Friends, colleagues and other elected officials lauded Oliver for her many accomplishments.

"I want to thank the County Executive for having the wisdom to make this dedication happen," Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said. "Having Sheila as Lt. Governor makes us one of the most progressive states. She is a woman of substance and this is a historical event for us all."

"It's no mistake we are here today," Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. said. "There are not many people to whom I look up, but with her tenacity, brilliance and integrity, Sheila has been an example for me. I remember Sheila from when she lived across the street from our family. And now look at what has happened. We have someone before us who personifies public service and helping people," Deputy Chief of Staff William Payne said.

State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz lauded Oliver for shattering the glass ceiling for women in government.

"It is fitting to name this room in Sheila's honor," Ruiz said. "She has filled many different roles through the years, each with strong leadership and dedication. You have earned everyone's respect."

The LeRoy F. Smith, Jr., Public Safety Building is named for LeRoy Smith, a Newark resident who served as Deputy Director of Emergency Medical Services for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey for 38 years before retiring in 2007.

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